A Life Less Analog, Science

The Planetary Society: Take part in space exploration

Technology column header

While watching “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” as a kid, I never dreamed that one day I would become a member of the organization that the late Carl Sagan co-founded, The Planetary Society.

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” These words of wisdom from Sagan during the very first episode of “Cosmos” have inspired me all my life. That show was one of the reasons I fell in love with science, and developed a lifelong belief in technology for good. And I know that kid would be thrilled to know that while he didn’t end up becoming a scientist, he is still playing a role in space exploration as a member of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest and most effective space advocacy movement.

Space is for everyone

The Planetary Society was founded in 1980 with the mission of “empowering the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration”.

Here’s the story of The Planetary Society:

“Our story begins with an observation. Planetary Society founders Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman saw that people of all walks of life are fascinated by the cosmos—yet space exploration budgets waned. This disconnect sparked the idea for a movement that would unite and represent people from around the world in support of space science and exploration.

“This is how The Planetary Society came to be.

“For nearly 4 decades, our members have made strides in advancing planetary exploration, planetary defense, and the search for life beyond Earth. We have delivered tens of thousands of petitions to the United States Congress. We have funded groundbreaking technological advancements in solar sailing. We have united researchers from around the world to work together on asteroid defense. Today we are the world’s largest and most influential independent space-interest organization.”

Look up

LightSail is a crowdfunded project of The Planetary Society. This image taken by LightSail 2 on Jan. 21, 2020 includes the west coast of India. North is at right. The sail appears slightly curved due to the spacecraft's 185-degree fisheye camera lens. The image has been color corrected and some of the distortion has been removed. Image credit: The Planetary Society
LightSail is a crowdfunded project of The Planetary Society. This image taken by LightSail 2 on Jan. 21, 2020 includes the west coast of India. North is at right. The sail appears slightly curved due to the spacecraft’s 185-degree fisheye camera lens. The image has been color corrected and some of the distortion has been removed. Image credit: The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society’s efforts to demonstrate the viability of solar sailing, through the crowdfunded project called LightSail, is a perfect example of how the organization is bringing space exploration to the grassroots and making ordinary people part of a global movement.

I joined The Planetary Society in 2018, and was ecstatic when LightSail 2 launched on June 25, 2019. This wasn’t just any spacecraft — this was one that I and thousands of other members and supporters around the world had contributed to making a reality.

Wearing my The Planetary Society shirt at the global headquarters of Ericsson in Kista, Stockholm during our visit to Sweden in 2018.
Wearing my The Planetary Society shirt at the global headquarters of Ericsson in Kista, Stockholm during our visit to Sweden in 2018.

The current CEO of The Planetary Society is another person I look up to, Bill Nye. Like Sagan, Nye has worked tirelessly to educate the general public about science and advocate for space exploration.

Now, more than ever, we need people to understand science and believe in scientists, especially in tackling the climate emergency and dealing with fact-resistant humans infected by the anti-science bug.

I am techno-optimist. I believe that together, we can use science and technology to improve our lives, protect our planet, and explore the cosmos.

You might say we’re dreamers, but we’re not the only ones.

We are made of star stuff. It’s time for us to venture forth to the stars.