The Planetary Society announced today that it will assume the lead sponsorship role for SETI@home, ensuring the project will continue to operate. SETI@home enables over 2 million people around the world to process signals in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).
The project had been scheduled to end next year in May 2001, but will now be continued and expanded. The Planetary Society's sponsorship, part of an alliance with an integrated media network that is temporarily named Project Voyager, will also allow the SETI@home team to enhance the project's scope and increase its search capability to include regions visible only from the southern hemisphere.
The distributed computing network of SETI@home operates as the most powerful computer on Earth, and its progress to date represents the largest computational task in history. The Planetary Society was the founding sponsor of SETI@home, which was developed at the University of California, Berkeley.
"The Planetary Society's expanded role enables SETI@home to become bigger and better, and continues two decades of Society leadership in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence," said Bruce Murray, President of The Planetary Society. "The Society has supported SETI continuously since 1980 with a dozen different projects around the world."
The Society's increased support of SETI@home is part of an unprecedented new strategic alliance with Project Voyager, led by Ann Druyan of Carl Sagan Productions and Joe Firmage of Intend Change. The new alliance will allow the Society to merge the power of space exploration with the tremendous outreach potential of the Internet, expanding its Internet presence and initiating new programs for public participation.
"The alliance between The Planetary Society and Project Voyager provides an exciting opportunity to expand the global experiment of SETI@home and to associate the respected expertise of the Society with the creative web savvy of Project Voyager," said John Logsdon, Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and a member of the Society's Board of Directors. "The alliance is a win-win situation, with the real beneficiaries being all those interested in a deeper understanding of the cosmos and humanity's place within it."
While Project Voyager will help fund Society programs, The Planetary Society will provide science content to Project Voyager's forthcoming Internet portal. The Society and Project Voyager also plan to develop innovative educational material about the SETI@home project, SETI in general, and the new field of astrobiology.
"The Planetary Society's mission is to share the wonder, the majesty, and the discoveries of space exploration with people worldwide," said Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, and another member of the Society's Board of Directors. "The Society's alliance with Project Voyager will leverage this outreach in exciting and innovative ways."
SETI@home harnesses the unused computing power of millions of Internet-connected computers to analyze data from the radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, looking for possible signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. This is the first scientific experiment that directly involves the worldwide general public.
While no signal has yet been found, the endeavor has just begun, and the public's embrace of the project has been astounding. From its on-line debut on May 17, 1999, SETI@home attracted over one million participants in the first three months, climbing to two million in one year, with 3,000 to 4,000 new people joining every day.
SETI@home users represent a wide cross-section of the public, ranging in age from young students to retirees, and from professional engineers to Internet newcomers. To date, SETI@home is the largest computing experiment ever undertaken, and participants have collectively logged over 340 millennia worth of computing time.
"The alliance with The Planetary Society and Project Voyager will allow SETI@home to increase the program's data processing capability, as well as to begin analyzing data collected from radio telescopes scanning the southern hemisphere," says Dr. David P. Anderson, the director of the SETI@home project.
The project's Chief Scientist is Dan Werthimer, who leads UC Berkeley's SERENDIP SETI program as well. SETI@home was conceived by computer scientist David Gedye, along with Craig Kasnoff and astronomer Woody Sullivan.
Signing up for SETI@home is possible at The Planetary Society website.
Project Voyager is the working title of an integrated media network devoted to entertainment and learning that draws upon our knowledge of science. The company is being organized by Joe Firmage of Intend Change and Ann Druyan of Carl Sagan Productions and has accepted seed capital from SOFTBANK Venture Capital and Crosspoint Ventures. The company will announce its name in late summer of 2000, and expects to launch globally in late 2000.
Druyan, a member of the Society's Board of Directors, is the wife and collaborator of the late Carl Sagan who co-founded The Planetary Society in 1980. Firmage, an Internet entrepreneur, is a founder of USWeb (now marchFIRST), an Internet professional services firm, and Intend Change, a venture construction firm.