The Planetary Society is a non-government, nonprofit organization supported by more than forty thousand members; anyone can join. It is involved in research and engineering projects related to astronomy, planetary science, exploration, public outreach, and political advocacy. It was founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman, and has members from more than one hundred countries around the world.
The Society is dedicated to the exploration of the Solar System, the search for Near Earth Objects, and the search for extraterrestrial life.
In addition to public outreach, the Planetary Society also sponsors novel and innovative projects that will "seed" further exploration. In June 2005, the Society launched the Cosmos 1 craft to test the feasibility of solar sailing, but the rocket failed shortly after liftoff.
The Planetary Society runs many programs. Two of the highest profile programs are Lightsail and LIFE (Living Interplanetary Life Experiment.) Lightsail is a series of three ultralight spacecraft which will be propelled by sunlight. As of May 2011 Lightsail1 is undergoing deployment tests and is scheduled to piggyback on a future NASA mission. LIFE is a two-part program designed to test the ability of microorganisms to survive in space. The first phase involves sending carefully packaged microorganisms into low earth orbit on a space shuttle. Shuttle LIFE was scheduled to fly on shuttle Endeavor's final flight on May 16, 2011 and return to earth on June 1. The second phase rode on Russia's Fobos-Grunt mission, which attempted to go to Mars' moon Phobos and back. This three-year mission was designed to test the survivability of microorganisms in interplanetary flight and was set to launch some time in mid-Oct to mid-Nov 2011. On November 8, 2011 Fobos-Grunt successfully launched, but for reasons unknown failed to escape earth orbit. Roscosmos has given up on the probe leaving earth orbit and it is predicted to return to earth sometime in early January 2012. However, the LIFE program is still continuing, due to the ongoing analyses of the microorganisms flown on the Shuttle LIFE mission and, according to Bruce Betts himself, another ride of LIFE is considered.
In addition to its projects, The Planetary Society is also a strong advocate for space funding and missions of exploration within NASA. They actively lobby Congress and engage their membership in the United States to write and call their representatives in support of NASA funding.
Famous quotes containing the words planetary and/or society:
“We cannot cheat on DNA. We cannot get round photosynthesis. We cannot say I am not going to give a damn about phytoplankton. All these tiny mechanisms provide the preconditions of our planetary life. To say we do not care is to say in the most literal sense that we choose death.”
—Barbara Ward (19141981)
“If we would enjoy the most intimate society with that in each of us which is without, or above, being spoken to, we must not only be silent, but commonly so far apart bodily that we cannot possibly hear each others voice in any case. Referred to this standard, speech is for the convenience of those who are hard of hearing; but there are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)