Bruce Betts Head Shot 2015

Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager, The Planetary Society

[email protected]

+1-626-793-5100

Dr. Bruce Betts is Chief Scientist and LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest group.  Dr. Betts is a planetary scientist who earned a B.S. in physics and math and an M.S. in Applied Physics from Stanford and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science with a minor in Geology from Caltech.  He spent several years with San Juan Institute/Planetary Science Institute as a Research Scientist, and later Senior Research Scientist.  He studied planetary surfaces, including Mars, the Moon, and Jupiter’s moons, using infrared and other data, and published several scientific papers on these subjects.  Dr. Betts spent three years at NASA headquarters managing planetary instrument development programs to design spacecraft science instruments. 

At The Planetary Society, he has had copious project management experience, having managed a number of flight instrument (both science and public outreach) projects, including silica glass DVDs on the Mars Exploration Rovers and Phoenix lander carrying millions of names and Mars literature, the LIFE biology experiment that flew on the Russian Phobos sample return mission, and he led a NASA grant studying microrovers assisting human exploration.  He is the Program Manager for The Planetary Society’s LightSail solar sail missions.  He has also overseen or managed a number of additional projects designed to excite and involve the public in space exploration. 

Dr. Betts is the author of Astronomy for Kids: How to Explore Outer Space with Binoculars, a Telescope, or Just Your Eyes!  He regularly writes for The Planetary Society member magazine The Planetary Report, and on his blog on planetary.org.  His twitter feed @RandomSpaceFact provides easy night sky astronomy and random space facts, and his Random Space Fact videos provide facts and humor in brief segments.  He also co-hosts the "What's Up?" feature on the weekly Planetary Radio show (150 radio stations, XM/Sirius satellite radio, and podcast).  He is a frequent guest on History Channel’s The Universe.  Dr. Betts is an Adjunct Professor with California State University Dominguez Hills and his most recent Introduction to Astronomy and Planetary Science course is available for free online. He is an Alumnus Senior Scientist with Planetary Science Institute

Latest Articles

What Is a Solar Eclipse? Your Questions Answered.

Your guide to total, partial, and annular eclipses: what causes them, what you'll see, and when the next one will happen.

Announcing the 2019 Shoemaker NEO Grant Winners

Six proposals are awarded a total of $57,906. The winners come from 4 countries on 3 continents.

The Planetary Society Announces 2019 Call for Proposals for Shoemaker NEO Grant Program

Our grants fund amateur observers, underfunded professional observers, and observers in developing countries who make vital contributions to NEO research.

Latest Planetary Radio Appearances

More Moon Water and an Update From Venus on Our 18th Anniversary!

Astronomer Jane Greaves returns with an update on the phosphine gas floating above Venus, before Casey Honnibal takes us through her team’s discovery of water right out under the Sun on Earth’s Moon.

Revealing Mars From Above, and Crew Dragon is Go!

Two pioneering Mars orbiters are still doing great work above the Red Planet, while the first operational Crew Dragon spaceship has delivered four astronauts to the International Space Station.

A Rogue World Wanders as PlanetVac Heads for the Moon and Mars

A distant, lonely planet has been discovered as it wanders the galaxy, while Bill Nye helps us celebrate selection of a radically-simple sample collection system for trips to the Moon and Mars’ moon Phobos.