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18 Years of Searching -- Where is The Planetary Society Headed?


Louis Friedman




The Planetary Society has been supporting Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) projects for 18 years, ever since the first move by the U.S. Congress to outlaw the expenditure of NASA funds on the effort.  Some one dozen projects, including searches in both the northern and southern hemispheres have been conducted, enabled by more  than one million dollars of privately contributed funds from members of the Society.  These searches include the most comprehensive, the Billion Channel Extra-terrestrial Assay (BETA) at Harvard, the continuous support in the southern hemisphere in Argentina, and now the enormously significant and popular data processing going on worldwide known as SETI@home. 

Recently the Society has begun to add Optical SETI to its list of supported projects – an idea whose time has come.  In conjunction with this meeting, the Society announced that it was funding a dedicated Optical SETI telescope to conduct an all-sky search for hypothetical laser signals from extraterrestrial sources.  The challenge now, with all of these observation programs, by the Society and others, is to deal with negative results and use them to define better search strategies and new experiments for testing hypotheses in SETI.


Planetary, Society, SETI, extraterrestrial, BETA, SETI@Home, 


  • The paper (author Web site)


Principal Author Biography

Dr. Friedman is a native of New York City.  He received a B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Engineering Physics at the  University of Wisconsin in 1961, an M.S. in Engineering Mechanics at Cornell University in 1963, and a Ph.D. from the  Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at M.I.T. in 1971.  His Ph.D. thesis was on Extracting Scientific Information from 
Spacecraft Tracking Data.

Dr. Friedman worked at the AVCO Space Systems Division from 1963-1968, on both civilian and military space programs. From 1970 to 1980 he worked on deep space missions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.  Among the projects he has worked on are: navigation systems analysis for Mariner-Venus-Mercury and for the Grand Tour, and mission design studies for the Venus Orbital Imaging Radar, Halley Comet Rendezvous-Solar Sail, and the Mars Program.  He was the leader of the latter three programs.  He has been the manager of Advanced Planetary Studies at JPL,  and has been involved in the planning of future space missions for many years. Dr. Friedman is the author of more than 20  papers on Navigation, Mission Analysis and Design, and Mission Planning.

In 1978-79, Dr. Friedman was the AIAA Congressional Fellow and worked on the staff of the Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. During the last year he worked on Space Policy, Operational Remote Sensing legislation, NASA program oversight and technology innovation on the railroads.  He is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Astronautical Society, the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, Sigma Xi and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1979 and 1980 Dr. Friedman originated and was leader of the International Halley Watch at JPL.  He left JPL in 1980 to become the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, a non-profit, popular society for enhancing the exploration of the planets and the search for extraterrestrial life.  The Planetary Society is now the largest space interest organization in the
world.  Dr. Friedman frequently lectures about planetary missions and space exploration programs.

Dr. Friedman is the author of Starsailing: Solar Sails and Interstellar Travel.  While at The Planetary Society, Dr. Friedman has worked on the proposal for human exploration of Mars and published several papers on this subject.  He has also been part of the technical team working on the Mars Balloon.  He has served on a number of space program advisory groups and recently has been asked to participate in both Congressional and Administration reviews concerning American and Russian space exploration missions.

Principal Author Affiliation

The Planetary Society
65 North Catalina Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106-2301
Tel: (626) 793-5100
Email: tps.ldf@planetary.org


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