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Mark HilverdaAugust 2, 2016

On A Mission to Explore! Choosing A Theme for Our Membership Experience

Last week The Planetary Society launched a reinvented membership experience to engage our members in new ways and further share the joy of space exploration and science with people around the world. It’s been exhilarating to see the wonderful response in the early days of this new program, which features monthly and annual options and new benefits including a redesigned member t-shirt. To date, we’ve had over 500 new members join us on our journey!

Since 1980 when Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society, members have supported and enabled the Society to carry out its mission to empower the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration. Members are essential to this mission and so, as with any important endeavour, significant planning and preparation played an important role in reinventing the membership program.

Founders of The Planetary Society (1989, outside 65 N. Catalina Ave.)

The Planetary Society

Founders of The Planetary Society (1989, outside 65 N. Catalina Ave.)
Planetary Society founders Bruce Murray, Carl Sagan, and Louis Friedman.

Some of the most visible elements of the new membership experience are the membership levels and their associated names. Space is vast and planetary exploration has no shortage of subjects from which to draw inspiration. Initial brainstorming gathered ideas from staff and our Board of Directors. Should there be focus on space mission names? How about ordering by celestial objects? Exploration themes, planetary types, astronomical measurements could all be considered.

These ideas were discussed, refined, and iterated until two approaches were created, one focusing on explorer names and another on astronomical object names. Everyone involved knew that no final approach could be determined without first considering feedback from those who would be using the new experience: Planetary Society members! A short survey outlining the naming approaches was created and sent to several hundred members who provided helpful feedback and suggestions.

New Planetary Society Membership Experience

The Planetary Society

New Planetary Society Membership Experience
In this major update of our membership program, we have added new levels, features, and benefits designed to enhance our members’ opportunities to connect with us and to their passion for exploring the cosmos.

When reviewing the membership levels you’ll see several ideas and approaches were ultimately incorporated into the naming structure. Exploration is the driving theme with some names overlapping both space missions and elements of exploration (Explorer, Surveyor, and Voyager to name a few).

Other names were selected to describe the boundary pushing elements of international missions, such as ESA’s Huygens Titan probe (Pathfinder) and to recognize the mobile robotic explorers from several nations that have roamed our Moon and Mars (Rover). Space exploration includes humans, and the Visionary level was selected with a look towards other worlds humans will one day set foot upon. The last three membership levels, Pioneer, Voyager, and New Horizons, include some of the farthest human-made objects from Earth, inspiring exploration deeper and deeper into the cosmos.

Artist’s concept of Huygens

ESA / C. Carreau

Artist’s concept of Huygens
Artist’s concept of the Huygens lander, in its descent to Titan’s surface in January 2005.

Membership level names are just one part of the overall new membership program. Reinventing the membership experience also provided an opportunity to reinvent the Society’s web experience. As you explore the new membership web pages you’ll notice a new, clean design that responds to the dimensions of the device you’re using whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or gigantic desktop monitor. This new design experience will be coming to the broader website in the future and we can’t wait to share it with you.

Carl Sagan wrote: “Planetary exploration is an adventure of historic proportions. A thousand years from now, our age will be remembered because this was the moment we first set sail for the planets and the stars.” We are excited to share in this adventure in new ways with members, both new and old, and those who will be joining us as we all continue humanity’s journey to the stars.

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Mark Hilverda

Digital Specialist for The Planetary Society
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