Search for intelligent life falls victim to funding cuts

SETI radio telescope array stops its search for alien signals

If E.T. has been trying to phone us since returning home, he can stop. After four years of scanning the skies for radio signals that might be evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, the Allen Telescope Array in California is shutting down, a victim of funding cuts.

InformationWeek reports that due to sharp funding cuts from the National Science Foundation and California, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute has shut down the 42-antenna array while it embarks on a more terrestrial search for other funding sources.

"2011 was expected to be a banner year for the group because recent space probe missions have revealed the locations of over 1,000 possible Earthlike planets — and with them, regions of space where the array could scan for signs of the civilizations we hope to find on planets like our own," wrote Annalee Newitz on, a website devoted to science and science fiction.

"There is a huge irony that [at] a time when we discover so many planets to look at, we don't have the operating funds to listen," Jill Tarter, director of the institute's Center for SETI Research, told the San Jose Mercury News.

SETI officials are hoping the Air Force might help, and they are also soliciting donations from the public. Tarter told the Mercury News that the institute needs about $5 million over the next two years to keep the program running.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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Reader Comments

Fri, May 6, 2011 Captain Obvious Rome NY

I sincerely doubt that the Air Force has $5M worth of interest in this MDR project. (Money Down the Rathole)

Tue, May 3, 2011 FredL Lincoln, NE

Re-position the telescopes toward Washington DC and listen for intelligent life there. Good grief. What a waste of our money.

Tue, May 3, 2011

I think if they were close enough to see their radio emissions then they are also close enough to see our radio emissions. I doubt they are still interested in talking to us if they've seen Jersey Shore...

Mon, May 2, 2011 Realist

SETI has been a total waste of funds from day one. If there is anybody out there worth communicating with, they'd have to be close enough that we could carry on a meaningful conversation. This means they would have to have the technology to get themselves into close Earth orbit. If they can do that then we don't need to spend billions of dollars we cannot afford to go looking for them.

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