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

Announcing the First-Ever STEP Grant Winners: Citizen Science SETI and Determining Asteroid Properties

The new STEP Grants program is designed to regularly compete a significant portion of The Planetary Society’s science and technology portfolio.

Announcing the 2021 Shoemaker NEO Grant Winners

More funds than ever before support the work of asteroid hunters from around the world.

LightSail 2 completes second year in space

Two years after launch, The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft is still solar sailing and paving the way for future missions.

Latest Planetary Radio Appearances

Cassini’s Dramatic End: A Planetary Radio Reprise

We were there when the Cassini spacecraft ended 13 years of exploration and revelation at Saturn.

Life, the Universe and Britney Schmidt

Britney Schmidt is preparing us for the day when a submarine will slip into the seas of an ocean world like Europa to search for life.

Perseverance Perseveres: A Mars rover update from Ken Farley

The Mars 2020 rover has rolled into an ancient river delta on the Red Planet. Will we find evidence of past life there?