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NASA Should Start Funding SETI Again

In 1993, Sen. Richard Bryan (D–Nev.) introduced a last-minute amendment that ended funding for Project HRMS, the last major Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program funded by NASA. "This hopefully," he quipped, "will be the end of Martian hunting season at the taxpayer's expense." Today, NASA does not have any SETI programs, and does not solicit proposals for SETI projects from astronomers. As a result, the field has atrophied, with only a handful of practitioners left and virtually no pipeline to train more. Some of us are hopeful change may be around the corner. Congress currently seems not hostile but downright receptive to SETI, and there is no actual statutory prohibition on NASA supporting a SETI program. NASA recently chartered the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to form the ad hoc Committee on Astrobiology Science Strategy for Life in the Universe to evaluate its astrobiology portfolio, and this committee should recommend that NASA embrace SETI as part of its mission. Since the late 1950s, astronomers have realized that our technology is sufficient to send and receive signals of sufficient strength to be detected at interstellar distances. If there are other technological species in the galaxy, a simple radio or laser signal would be an unambiguous sign of their existence. Finding such intelligent life is the goal of SETI.

Read More: Scientific American Blog Network

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