2023 Impact Report

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!

New Destinations

2023 STEP grant winners
2023 STEP grant winners Dr. Jacob Buffo (left) and Dr. Andrew Palmer (right), leaders of the projects funded by the 2023 round of The Planetary Society's STEP grants.Image: Chris Carr/Georgia Tech/Florida Institute of Technology

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.

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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.

OSIRIS-REx event with the U.S. Postal Service
OSIRIS-REx event with the U.S. Postal Service Mike Puzio (left) at the United States Postal Service’s OSIRIS-REx Forever stamp unveiling event at the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sept. 22, 2023.Image: U.S. Postal Service

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.

Planetary Academy thumbnail
The Planetary Academy The exclusive new Planetary Society membership for kids ages 5 to 9.

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!

Sarah Al-Ahmed portrait
Sarah Al-Ahmed portrait On Jan. 4, 2023, Sarah Al-Ahmed will become the new host of Planetary Radio, The Planetary Society’s renowned, weekly space podcast and radio program.Image: The Planetary Society

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.

Active Missions

Space advocacy advances

Fueled by your support, we continue to fight to keep important missions on track — including the VERITAS Venus surveyor, NEO Surveyor, Mars Sample Return, and Dragonfly — despite Congressional pressure to cut NASA's budget.

Shoemaker Grant award program by the numbers
Shoemaker Grant award program by the numbers An overview of the impact of The Planetary Society's Shoemaker NEO grant program, which funds very advanced amateur astronomers who track, characterize, and discover near-Earth objects.Image: The Planetary Society

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.

Planetary Society members on Capitol Hill during the 2023 Day of Action
Planetary Society members on Capitol Hill during the 2023 Day of Action Image: The Planetary Society

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.

Ariel Barreiro portrait
Ariel Barreiro portrait Zed Factor Fellow Ariel Barreiro.Image: Ariel Barreiro

Zed Factor Fellow

Through our partnership with the Zed Factor Fellowship to empower aspiring aerospace professionals from underrepresented backgrounds, The Planetary Society this year hosted University of Pittsburgh graduate Ariel Barreiro, supporting her goal to work in space science communication.

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

Future Horizons

LightSail 2 Spreads its Wings and Begins to Fly
Lightsail 2 The Planetary Society's solar sailing spacecraft is seen unfurling its wings to begin flight, in this photo from July 23, 2019.Image: The Planetary Society

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.

"Casting Shadows: Solar and Lunar Eclipses with The Planetary Society" book cover
"Casting Shadows: Solar and Lunar Eclipses with The Planetary Society" book cover "Casting Shadows: Solar and Lunar Eclipses with The Planetary Society" by Bruce Betts, chief scientist at The Planetary SocietyImage: Lerner Books

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.

Total solar eclipse
Total solar eclipse This image of the April 20, 2023 total solar eclipse, was taken by Planetary Society member Blake Estes from Exmouth, Western Australia. An HDR stack of 12 images shows the beautiful details in the solar corona.Image: Blake Estes

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.