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 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.

Shoemaker NEO Grant Winners Advance Their Work

We check in our last round of grant winners, who are helping to defend Earth from dangerous asteroids.

Your guide to future total solar eclipses

Bruce Betts and Sarah Al-Ahmed provided a guide to all total solar eclipses through the end of the 2020s, with dates and locations.

Latest Planetary Radio Appearances

Into the anthropocosmos with Ariel Ekblaw

Into the Anthropocosmos is MIT Space Exploration Initiative director Ariel Ekblaw’s collection of innovations that will improve life in space and on Earth.

The DART asteroid impact mission begins, with Nancy Chabot

The DART mission begins its journey that will end when it smashes into an asteroid, demonstrating how we might save Earth from a devastating impact.

Spacecraft communications and navigation with Badri Younes

Spacecraft need a navigation and communication infrastructure to carry out their missions. Learn how NASA does it and what’s in store for the future.