The SETI League, Inc., a membership-supported, non-profit {501(c)(3)}, educational and scientific organization Searching for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Ask Dr. SETI ®

Chapter 1: Astrophysics

SETI in Space

Dear Dr. SETI:
I am a student member of The SETI League. I was wondering if SETI would ever send a small unmanned radio telescope into space. This would seem desirable since there is less interference outside the atmosphere.

JP, Ohio (7th Grade)

The Doctor Responds:
Radio Astronomy and SETI, both of which use sensitive receiving stations to study radio emissions from space, have indeed been severely hampered by Earth's use of technology. There are natural and, presumably, artificial signals from the stars, which just cannot penetrate the sphere of electromagnetic pollution surrounding our planet. Space is certainly an option (though an expensive one). The far side of the Moon is an especially appealing location for SETI, because it is well shielded from the Earth.

At the Observatorie de Paris, Jean Heidmann is putting forward a proposal for a SETI observatory on lunar farside, in Saha Crater. In Italy, Claudio Maccone has for years been proposing a Solar Sail mission to 550 AU, which would use our Sun as a gravitational lens for surveying the cosmos. These attempts to escape Earth's radio pollution are serious scientific proposals which deserve our full support.

Earlier this year The SETI League formed an alliance with The Artemis Society, a space advocacy organization which is planning privatized Lunar exploration. The far side of the Moon, being shielded from Earth's interfering radiation, is an ideal location for a radio observatory. For years we've waited for NASA to get us there, but it's just not happening. Perhaps Artemis will succeed where government projects have failed.

Such projects may not happen within my lifetime, but they are certainly not out of the question within yours.

Thanks for your support of SETI. We're pleased to have you as a member.

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