Administration Shuts Down SETI Telescope Array For Lack of Funds — While Continuing Operations in Three Wars

While the Obama Administration has commenced a third war in Libya and is spending billions every week in military operations from Kabul to Tripoli, it is shutting down various domestic programs for lack of funds. The latest is the Allen Telescope Array — a large number of small satellite dishes that search for extraterrestrial life in Northern California. The prohibitive cost? $1.5 million dollars a year (an additional $1 million is used on data collection and analysis). In the meantime, the Administration is refusing to yield to the latest Afghan official insisting that the country does not want or need U.S. troops and yet another case of an Afghan soldier killing U.S. personnel — this time eight U.S. soldiers and one contractor killed by one of our allies.

Astronomers at the SETI Institute have been told that the United States can simply not afford the $1.5 million needed to continue their scientific work. The team had isolated 50 or 60 of those planets that looked promising for signs of life. The 42 radio dishes will now be turned off.

Putting aside this one project, we will be seeing an array of scientific and medical projects axed while the Administration continues to gush billions in these wars. The logical disconnect is appalling. Because our leaders do not want to take responsibility to end these wars, we will continue deny citizens and students important programs, including scientific programs that could be vital in future medical or scientific advances.

I have always been doubtful of the long-term positive impact of our involvement in these countries. Indeed, we appear to have succeeded in alienating or angering large populations in not just these countries but countries like Pakistan. The lasting impact is likely to be the termination of programs that offer future promise in the training of students and professionals as well as needed research. The only thing clearly protected are the careers of politicians who lack of the backbone to admit that wars like Iraq were a terrible mistake and should be ended before we cut further into domestic programs.

Source: Scientific American

21 thoughts on “Administration Shuts Down SETI Telescope Array For Lack of Funds — While Continuing Operations in Three Wars”

  1. We can’t get to other planets, even if we do identify some we might want to live on some day. We can put off funding research on them until we learn to take care of the people on the planet we’ve got. Only after or in parallel with the development of interplanetary travel should we spend public money on such lofty but unreachable dreams.

    We should also stop fighting other countries wars for them. It just encourages them to act an a$$.

  2. Consider all that is dealt our way as “The Fucko Royale”. It can be applied to most things,If you aren’t sure, wait a while and “The Fucko Royale most likely applies! We need jobs just like the pissed off people in Egypt, no jobs for collage grads! Sound familiar? How about student loan policies? Peace out!
    “the Greyhound”

  3. JT correctly frames the issue. SETI is something we humans should be doing, as are many other areas of scientific research. We niggle about relatively small budget issues when the 600 hundred pound gorilla in the room of two unnecessary and wasteful wars costs us trillion$.

  4. People on every other planet in the galaxy are sitting down in the living room finally, finally able to turn the damn tv on again.

  5. I hope they don’t scrap the satellite dishes. Some day we will need them to guide the Predator missles when we fire them at other galaxies.

  6. So many good intentions, so much ignorance, so little googling.

    Rafflaw, the Allen Telescope is not owned by the Feds and never has been.

    Professor Turley, I think your headline is more than a bit misleading, even as I agree the thrust of your post.

    If you read the article, you’ll find that telescope is funded by 1) Private donations, 2) State of California, and 3) by the NSF.

    While the NSF funding is critical and should be restored, the headline leads to the misimpressions claim that the Administration intentionally sought to shut down the telescope and/or that it is a Federal resource.

    I think both of those claims are wrong and demean both the Administration as well as SETI, the State of California and Paul Allen.

    OTOH Professor Turley, where your post is not strong enough is on President Obama who has told us many times of his support for science and education and this cut back from NSF once again puts those claims into question.

  7. mespo727272
    1, April 28, 2011 at 11:21 am
    Who needs SETI? We’ve got Afghanistan. As Jefferson said in a different context, we have it like we ” …have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

    If I may, my dear mespo, add this … we have become slaves to and owner of the war machine and thus in a situation Jefferson, Madison, and Washington would have recognized immediately.

    And so I give you another wise Jefferson statement:

    “If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.”

    Who needs SETI? Anyone who recognizes that SETI represents far more than just a “number of small satellite dishes that search for extraterrestrial life in Northern California.”

    The wolf is at our door.

  8. BB,

    Part of the SETI initiative is also looking for Earth-like worlds. There is a practical aspect beyond simple communication with another species. We are about to screw this planet up so badly we won’t be able to live on it. We need to find some other place to screw up next.

  9. Maybe the government can sell those dishes to comcast or to the Dish Network and make a profit? So much money going out the window for no good reason and scientific research is stymied. This is the upside down Tea Party world.

  10. Who needs SETI? We’ve got Afghanistan. As Jefferson said in a different context, we have it like we ” …have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

  11. I am all for increasing corporate wealth with no discernible benefit to society….. Bell needs your Dollars…. GE and Haliburton too….

    Realistically what value does this have….never the mind that NASA is responsible for numerous toys that we enjoy…. Oh.. yeah…

    I think its a bad ideal….what could we learn….A lot… We all may need a place to move after this one is toooooo FUBAR…

  12. To be fair, a dutch comedian clarified the total meaningless of searching for aliens to me:

    ‘The way I see it, there’s only 2 possibilities: either they exist, or they don’t.
    In case they exist, there’s still only 2 possibilities: either they’re smarter than us or they’re not.

    Now, if they’re not smarter than us, I sure as hell don’t want anything to do with them.
    And in case they are smarter than us, wouldn’t they find us way quicker than we them?’

    Hence, there’s no point looking.. get over it 😉

  13. When the people in other galaxies notice that SETI has shut down, I’m sure their first thought will be: “Well, the Earth morons have finally done it. They’ve all killed each other. Just as well- their technology got way ahead of their mental development. Poor stupid bastards- they had so much potential.”

  14. What’s even worse is the good work that SETI has done on the array has been done on an incomplete tool. When finished, the array was supposed to have 150 dishes, making it one of the biggest radio array telescopes on Earth. Right now, the status of the project is “hibernation” where it will remain for the next six months. After that, it will be shut down and considerably more expensive to bring back to operational status unless the funds to keep the doors open can be found before the lights are turned all the way out.

    A sad day in science as we as a nation literally throw money down multiple bottomless pits in the Middle East.

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