Planetary Society members power our mission. Thanks to them, The Planetary Society was able to work effectively in 2023 to increase discoveries in our solar system and beyond, elevate the search for other life, and decrease the risk of Earth being hit by an asteroid.
Here are the highlights of all we accomplished together — as well as where we're headed next!
STEP Grant winners broke new ground
Two teams won grants from The Planetary Society’s STEP (Science and Technology Empowered by the Public) program.
A team led by Dr. Jacob Buffo of Dartmouth College was awarded $49,284 to study extremely salty lakes in British Columbia that may be similar to ancient Mars or one of the Solar System’s ocean moons, places of interest in the search for life. Studying salty water environments can give us insights into whether they could be habitable.
Prof. Andrew Palmer of the Florida Institute of Technology and his team are using their $50,000 grant to explore different methods of growing edible plants in simulated deep-space conditions to better understand each method and compare their suitability for long-term space travel.
Ann Druyan on Carl Sagan's novel "Contact" Mat Kaplan and Ann Druyan chat about “Contact” by Carl Sagan in June 2023's Book Club Live Q&A in The Planetary Society’s member community.
We launched an all-new member community
The launch of our new member community was one of the most exciting updates of the year. As a Planetary Society member, now you can connect with fellow space enthusiasts to learn more about the Cosmos, participate in live virtual events, join rocket launch watch parties, and much more. It’s free for members, and available for desktop as well as a mobile app. Just go to community.planetary.org.
...and The Planetary Society Book Club!
Our brand new book club launched this year with live Q+A's from authors Ann Druyan, Andy Weir, Mary Roach, and more. The book club is free for all Planetary Society members and accessible through our digital member community.
New science enabled from an asteroid sample returned to Earth
In September, a capsule sent from the spacecraft OSIRIS-REx delivered a sample of the asteroid Bennu collected in 2020. Naming the asteroid after a deity from Egyptian mythology was proposed by Michael Puzio, who was nine years old in 2013 when The Planetary Society, the University of Arizona, and MIT held a naming contest.
Our Planetary Academy is going strong
The Planetary Academy, our membership for kids ages 5 to 9, has seen amazing growth to more than 2,000 members since its 2022 launch. Academy members get educational adventure packs filled with fascinating facts, hands-on activities, experiments and more. We’re inspiring tomorrow’s space and science leaders today!
We welcomed Sarah Al-Ahmed as the new host of Planetary Radio
After an extensive hunt, Sarah Al-Ahmed was chosen to succeed Mat Kaplan after he announced his retirement from the show after 20 years. With a degree in astrophysics from UC Berkeley and years of experiences as a producer and lecturer at Griffith Observatory, Sarah brings a wealth of expertise to her conversations with the scientists, engineers, mission leaders, astronauts, advocates, and writers on the edge of the final frontier.
Planetary Defense efforts continue
Thanks to generous member support, we awarded $68,434 in this year’s round of Shoemaker NEO grants to eight winners from six countries. Named after pioneering planetary geologist Gene Shoemaker, our grants support advanced amateur astronomers in their efforts to find, track, and characterize near-Earth asteroids.
Also this year, our Chief of Space Policy Casey Dreier presented his paper on the growth of NASA's planetary defense budget at the International Planetary Defense conference. The Planetary Society co-sponsors this gathering of asteroid impact experts to share updates, coordinate research, and engage the public.
In-Person Day of Action
This year’s Day of Action returned to Washington, D.C., with over 100 member-advocates participating. Members took to the halls of Congress to advocate for a balanced and robust budget for planetary science. Online, more than 300 advocates from 47 states and the District of Columbia took action by sending letters to their legislators. Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye also met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other leaders in Congress to advocate for increased investment in NASA's space exploration projects.
Citizen science advances SETI
Thanks to a Planetary Society STEP grant, a UCLA SETI project called, Are We Alone in the Universe?, is giving members of the public the opportunity to help scientists find signs of extraterrestrial intelligence by classifying radio signals that may have been emitted up to tens of thousands of light-years away and collected by a radio telescope
The LightSail book is coming
We’re still sharing the results of LightSail, our successful mission to advance solar sailing. Every successful mission has a book to go with it — and now LightSail will too! The commemorative book will be filled with the best images captured by LightSail, details on the development of the mission, stories from the launch and more! Along with the book, we will be disseminating our findings in scientific journals and at conferences, and building a master archive of all the mission data to share with engineers, scientists, and future missions.
New Planetary Academy book series
The Planetary Society has partnered with Lerner Publishing to create a series of nine Planetary Academy kids books on space and science that will be made available to school libraries across the country at no cost to spark young minds! The first is “Casting Shadows: Solar and Lunar Eclipses with The Planetary Society,” set to publish is 2024 and available for preorder now.
We've got you covered for the 2024 total solar eclipse
April 8, 2024, the last total solar eclipse in North America for 20 years will grace the skies, creating a cosmic spectacle not to be missed. We developed an ultimate eclipse guide to help you make the most of this magical moment, which includes a eclipse map with The Eclipse Company to help you find the best viewing location.
And of course we're going make the most of this moment to celebrate with our members in person! Join CEO Bill Nye and other special special guests in Fredericksburg, Texas, for Eclipse-O-Rama 2024, a two-day celebration for Planetary Society members with engaging activities for all ages.