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

LightSail 2 is about to burn up

After 3.5 years, 18,000 orbits of the Earth, and 8 million kilometers (5 million miles) traveled, The Planetary Society’s successful LightSail 2 solar sail spacecraft will burn up as it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere in the next few days.

LightSail 2 getting lower as it completes third year in space

An update on The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 mission, which launched in 2015.

Updates from our Shoemaker NEO Grant winners

Brief updates on what the latest Shoemaker NEO grant winners have been working on.

Latest Planetary Radio Appearances

Juno Journeys to Jupiter’s Moons

Dive into the latest discoveries about Jupiter’s moons, Ganymede, Europa, and Io, with Scott Bolton, the principal investigator for NASA’s Juno mission.

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Jason Achilles, a musician who partnered with NASA’s JPL to help put one of the first microphones on Mars, shares his journey and the joy of listening to the sounds of the red planet.

Celebrating NASA’s Artemis I mission to the Moon

Jeremy Graeber, the assistant launch director at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, joins Planetary Radio to recount his experience on the night of Artemis I’s historic launch.