SETI project: We’re listening again, ET
E.T., you can phone home again.
Forty-two radio telescope dishes near Mount Shasta will again start listening for sounds of intelligent life in the universe this fall after donors — including actress Jodie Foster — came up with more than $200,000 to save the Mountain View-based SETI program, made famous by the movie “Contact.”
The Allen Telescope Array was shut down in April when the SETI (Search of Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute ran short of of money for the project.
The non-profit organization, which was founded in 1985 and funded in the 1990s by Hewlett Packard co-founder David Packard, said the $210,000 in donations it has raised this summer will allow the radio antennas to be turned back on by September. They will be re-calibrated and operated 24 hours a day through the end of 2011 while the organization continues to raise funds.
“My reaction is gratification and astonishment. Economic times are tough,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. “But people still think this very fundamental question — is there somebody out there as intelligent or more so than us? — is important and worth doing.
“There is something very quintessentially American about it,” Shostak added. “There’s something in our culture about being willing to try long-shot but high-stakes experiments in the name of exploration.”