SETI Shutters Allen Array Over Funding Shortfall

posted at 12:38 pm on April 29, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

Sad news for those still expecting that long overdue phone call from the Klingon Empire. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is putting it’s primary research gathering tool into hibernation mode for the time being.

Diminished funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the state of California has shut down the SETI Institute’s search for extraterrestrial life.

The institute has taken its Allen Telescope Array (ATA) offline while it seeks other sources of funding, it said in a letter to donors last week. In operation since 2007, the 42-radio antenna array–housed at the University of California Berkeley Hat Creek Radio Observatory–scans space for signs of extraterrestrial life.

Now NSF funding for the observatory has been cut to one-tenth of its former level, and California’s budgetary woes also have severely affected financial support for it, forcing SETI to send the array into hibernation mode, the institute’s CEO said in an e-mail (PDF) to donors last week.

As much as I like and support SETI, serious fiscal conservatives have to be ready for every expenditure to be on the budget cutting table. Of course, it’s not like we’re talking about a lot of money here. To keep going for the next two years SETI is only looking for five million dollars. (Yes, I know, but we’ve long since stopped being shocked at saying “only” when referring to millions of dollars when talking about the government.)

But they may still find a way through the impasse. SETI has long been working in creative ways to make the program less dependent on the public purse. They’ve raised significant amounts of money from the private sector and will continue to do so. They’ve also broken ground in innovative uses for technology, such as the SETI At Home program where supportive internet users install software on their home computers to harness the power of many small machines in analyzing the data collected.

The program isn’t entirely dead and will maintain some minimal staff to keep up maintenance operations. And if they find a way to wean themselves off the public teat entirely and move forward purely on public support, they may provide a model for other efforts which soon won’t be able to rely on the taxpayer dime.


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S.R. Hadden will fund it.

John the Libertarian on April 29, 2011 at 12:41 PM

They should revert to donations.

I know this may come as a shock but sending messages into space to find aliens isn’t a top priority for our nation.

amerpundit on April 29, 2011 at 12:42 PM

They should revert to solely donations.

Fixed.

amerpundit on April 29, 2011 at 12:43 PM

“your call cannot be connected.”

OldEnglish on April 29, 2011 at 12:44 PM

S.R. Hadden will fund it.

John the Libertarian on April 29, 2011 at 12:41 PM

You, sir, are my hero of the day. Also, I’m glad I finally found the other person that ever watched Contact. Awesome movie.

Darksean on April 29, 2011 at 12:45 PM

Lots cheaper to just let them in from Mexico.

huckleberryfriend on April 29, 2011 at 12:46 PM

That sucks. Well hopefully it will resume sometime in the near future.

tx2654 on April 29, 2011 at 12:47 PM

If you would like to make a call….Please hang up and try again!

hawkman on April 29, 2011 at 12:48 PM

SETI is having about as much success finding Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence as I my SDCI project (Search for District of Columbia Intelligence).

WashJeff on April 29, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Have they actually ever found anything of interest?

cktheman on April 29, 2011 at 12:50 PM

If there was anything out there they woulda been here by now, and we would be dehydrated, packaged, and awaiting sale.

Akzed on April 29, 2011 at 12:51 PM

S.R. Hadden will fund it.

John the Libertarian on April 29, 2011 at 12:41 PM

Done in one.

Just remember the first rule of government spending… “Why build one when you can build two at twice the price?”

teke184 on April 29, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Have they actually ever found anything of interest? cktheman on April 29, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Yeah, at night the operators get free Sirius XM.

Akzed on April 29, 2011 at 12:53 PM

They need to Unionize and Bingo, big bucks

BruceB on April 29, 2011 at 12:53 PM

Have they actually ever found anything of interest?

cktheman on April 29, 2011 at 12:50 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wow!_signal

Jazz Shaw on April 29, 2011 at 12:55 PM

SETI is having about as much success finding Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence as I my SDCI project (Search for District of Columbia Intelligence).

WashJeff on April 29, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Nicely done. SETI is the fiscal definition of insanity (throw good money after bad to try to find something that just doesn’t exist).

Steve Eggleston on April 29, 2011 at 12:55 PM

Bad link… sorry.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wow!_signal

Anyway, do a search on “The Wow! Signal”

Jazz Shaw on April 29, 2011 at 12:57 PM

I’m not against the SETI program or our space programs generally but I think that right now, our tax dollars could be spent on more pressing issues.

Big John on April 29, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Excellent. Put the Dept of Education up next!

Sarjex on April 29, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Maybe they should shuffle some of that NASA money being spent on Muslim outreach and send it on over.

sharrukin on April 29, 2011 at 12:59 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wow!_signal

Jazz Shaw on April 29, 2011 at 12:55 PM

I’d like a study on how much we spent to find a non-repeated signal detected 33 years ago.

amerpundit on April 29, 2011 at 12:59 PM

Have they actually ever found anything of interest?

cktheman on April 29, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Multi-tentacled episodes of something equivalent to “I LOVE LUCY” hidden in Area 51?

profitsbeard on April 29, 2011 at 1:01 PM

MAybe they can pull the necessary funding out of Uranus.

(no, I will NOT apologize for that)

DrAllecon on April 29, 2011 at 1:02 PM

Have they actually ever found anything of interest?

cktheman on April 29, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Multi-tentacled episodes of something equivalent to “I LOVE LUCY” hidden in Area 51?

profitsbeard on April 29, 2011 at 1:01 PM

Cthulu’s answering machine message, saying he’ll get back to us in another 3000 years?

teke184 on April 29, 2011 at 1:03 PM

SETI is the fiscal definition of insanity (throw good money after bad to try to find something that just doesn’t exist).

Steve Eggleston on April 29, 2011 at 12:55 PM

SETI defintely falls into the “If you can’t cut X, what can you cut?” category.

I bing’d how many species exist on earth…about 10 Million right now. So I think it is fair to say, given repeated mass extinctions, that about 30 million species have been on this earth over time. Does that mean there is 1 in 30 million chance of intelligence developing on another planet? No. A sample set of one means poop! I lean towards that our species developing intelligence was super duper freaky occurance.

WashJeff on April 29, 2011 at 1:04 PM

I’d like a study on how much we spent to find a non-repeated signal detected 33 years ago.

amerpundit on April 29, 2011 at 12:59 PM

Wow?

Less than 33 months of Obama’s vacations I’d wager.

profitsbeard on April 29, 2011 at 1:04 PM

California has shut down the SETI Institute’s search for extraterrestrial life.

No need for more searches: they found it!!!

…walking the streets of L.A., San Francisco, etc….

landlines on April 29, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Liberals are alien life forms. The search is over.

faraway on April 29, 2011 at 1:06 PM

Liberals are alien life forms. The search is over.

faraway on April 29, 2011 at 1:06 PM

If Michelle Obama releases a cookbook, look out!

profitsbeard on April 29, 2011 at 1:09 PM

Contact. Awesome movie.

Darksean on April 29, 2011 at 12:45 PM

But very different from Sagan’s book, from which it was ‘created’.

ProfessorMiao on April 29, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Personally, I don’t think the aliens are trying hard enough to contact us. When they show they are making a serious effort, we can fund the ATA again.

BTW ~ I may be one of only a few who saw the movie District 9 and had no problem with eradicating the aliens completely. I don’t understand why more people don’t have a survival instinct. That, and I’m allergic to shellfish.

Fallon on April 29, 2011 at 1:13 PM

The program isn’t entirely dead and will maintain some minimal staff to keep up maintenance operations

You mean they haven’t been shown the door, but they have certainly been handed their hats?

DrW on April 29, 2011 at 1:14 PM

tell them to go set up shop in Siberia on Russia’s dime.

That’s where all the ETs are dropping dead.

wildweasel on April 29, 2011 at 1:14 PM

A technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilization would necessarily be libertarian and would view any government subsidized entity as too primitive to have a dialog with. If SETI can completely privatize, they might be able to make contact.

cartooner on April 29, 2011 at 1:23 PM

To me SETI is a really interesting experiment. But only people who think like me should pay for it. Oh, I also saw Contact. But they left out nearly all of the wonderful dialogue from the book starting on page 357.

liberty0 on April 29, 2011 at 1:27 PM

“I yam soree, that number has been dis-connected…”

mojo on April 29, 2011 at 1:33 PM

I’m surprised that Obama didn’t turn SETI into a muslim outreach program like he did to NASA and didn’t hire a muezzin to blast a call to prayer into outer space.

OxyCon on April 29, 2011 at 1:33 PM

SETI was another welfare project for pony-tailed wearing hippie nerds who want you to pay for their Star Trek fascination.

keep the change on April 29, 2011 at 1:33 PM

Michael Crichton said it best when he said “SETI is not science” then goes on to infer that like global warming it is a religion instead of a science. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1300661/posts

Jacob Hammond on April 29, 2011 at 1:36 PM

It should be more than obvious there is intelligent life out there.

The fact they haven’t contacted us shows they are more than intelligent, they are darn wise!

pilamaye on April 29, 2011 at 1:39 PM

If only they had offered FREE ObamaCare to the universe- then the starships will flood in. Dang-missed opportunity.

3dpuzzman on April 29, 2011 at 1:41 PM

I have friends on that project and I’m sad to see it suspended, but it really is one of the many things we can do without in a time of shortage.

Still, you’d think with all the UFO fanatics out there they could take up a collection and come up with the $5 million they need to keep running.

Socratease on April 29, 2011 at 1:50 PM

Space exploration takes a back seat to cowboy poetry, eh Libs?

catmman on April 29, 2011 at 2:07 PM

This is reason #237521 why it’s important to have government policies that promote an actual healthy economy, rather than the illusion of same.

ZenDraken on April 29, 2011 at 2:09 PM

They should revert to donations.

I know this may come as a shock but sending messages into space to find aliens isn’t a top priority for our nation.

amerpundit on April 29, 2011 at 12:42 PM

I run Seti@Home on my screensaver as well as several other BOINC projects. I have for years. It seems to me to be a worthwhile thing to do with with the excess computing power of my computer. I also help out with determining the structure of the universe, protein folding research, malaria vector research, and research into spinning nano-magnets. I’m also waiting for a project to come online that will help calculate the orbits of potentially dangerous earth-crossing asteroids.

I’d agree that SETI should be funded by donations. They don’t send signals, however. They just listen.

trigon on April 29, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Here’s the link for BOINC

There are dozens of projects in lots of interesting areas. Some are very worthwhile. Others are a little more esoteric. A few are kind of goofy. If you’ve got a fairly modern computer, you should consider helping out with a few projects.

trigon on April 29, 2011 at 2:24 PM

They should revert to solely donations solely.

Fixed.

amerpundit on April 29, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Split infinitives are bad.

unclesmrgol on April 29, 2011 at 2:25 PM

A technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilization would necessarily be libertarian…..

cartooner on April 29, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Sure it would.

A Balrog of Morgoth on April 29, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Aliens visited Earth, said “you gotta be kiddin’ me” and put us on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ list, not taking our calls. Basically, we’ve been relegated to the dung heap, not even as interesting as the scent gland of a skunk.

Robert17 on April 29, 2011 at 3:01 PM

Only $5 million to keep it running for a year? Heck, the Wisconsin Union Protesters cost that state that much in just a few weeks of protests.

Socratease on April 29, 2011 at 3:16 PM

I am sorry, but how can running 42 radio receivers and the server farm for the data analysis cost 5,000,000 for a year? How many people are in the SETI budget? How much are they paid per year?

After the capital expenditures to build the array, buy the receivers and servers, on-going operating expenses should be much less than $5,000,000.

Like so much of the government, it seems we overpay

MTinMN on April 29, 2011 at 3:17 PM

I know this may come as a shock but sending messages into space to find aliens isn’t a top priority for our nation.

amerpundit on April 29, 2011 at 12:42 PM

They don’t send messages, they listen for them. And you folks who don’t think there’s life out there don’t have a good grasp of probability. In an at least virtually infinite Universe, it’s guaranteed.

That said, I don’t think we need gummint to keep this going.

misterpeasea on April 29, 2011 at 3:41 PM

No word from gov moonbeam or Dennis the menace.

Kissmygrits on April 29, 2011 at 4:12 PM

You don’t need SETI to contact a powerful being who’s not of this earth…

You just need to pray.

This moment of inspiration brought to you by your local church.

Johnny 100 Pesos on April 29, 2011 at 5:05 PM

yeah. lets beam images of Hitler into outer space for all eternity to civilizations possibly billions of years our seniors, far beyond our comprehension and understanding. sounds like a great plan.

Do you people that support SETI realize that it is a beacon to a vast and exponential unknown. We are NOT the top of the food chain in the universe. lets stay quiet for another hundred thousand years at least? There could be civilizations that send out planetary reapers that will consume all the oxygen, water, carbon, etc on earth and leave us to die in matters of days or minutes. but we are sending out messages because our lovable human nature tells us aliens are cool and they are our friends.

I dont see ants sending me messages of their little ant life in hopes tha tI respond with some life changing information….

We are less than ants and bacteria in the scale of galaxies
and the universe.

dip it in cider on April 29, 2011 at 6:33 PM

yeah. lets beam images of Hitler into outer space for all eternity to civilizations possibly billions of years our seniors, far beyond our comprehension and understanding. sounds like a great plan.

Do you people that support SETI realize that it is a beacon to a vast and exponential unknown. We are NOT the top of the food chain in the universe. lets stay quiet for another hundred thousand years at least? There could be civilizations that send out planetary reapers that will consume all the oxygen, water, carbon, etc on earth and leave us to die in matters of days or minutes. but we are sending out messages because our lovable human nature tells us aliens are cool and they are our friends.

I dont see ants sending me messages of their little ant life in hopes that I respond with some life changing information….

We are less than ants and bacteria in the scale of galaxies
and the universe.

dip it in cider on April 29, 2011 at 6:33 PM

One more time…

SETI just listens. They don’t send signals.

Also, why would anybody want our stuff here on earth? It’s at the bottom of a gravity well. Once you’re in space it’s easier to get other stuff floating around out there.

They might destroy us for acting as we do. Nuking us from orbit might be the only way to be sure…

trigon on April 29, 2011 at 8:24 PM

I know this may come as a shock but sending messages into space to find aliens isn’t a top priority for our nation.

amerpundit on April 29, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Neither was spending all that money on the Apollo program considering all the po’ folk we had living in the ghettos, right?

The Romans were pretty happy with the way things were going when it was profitable. They didn’t need to advance science as long as they were powerful, comfortable and profitable. Interesting that what they ended up with was the Western Empire being dismembered by the Barbarians, and the Eastern Empire by the Muslims after another 1000 years of not adding much of anything to Mankind’s body of knowledge.

SETI was never a “top priority”, but I believe where our priorities do lie says much about our society. What is important to us? What makes America exceptional? What makes it worth living here in the first place?

Dr. ZhivBlago on April 30, 2011 at 12:59 AM

I remember a few years ago when I first heard of SETI and I recall that Bill Gates had something to do with its initial funding or something like that. Anyway, $5 million is definately chump change for him and I know how he really gets off on the ET thing.

auspatriotman on April 30, 2011 at 1:38 AM