The SETI Institute has been around for decades: It stepped in to help keep the search for alien radio signals active after NASA cut off funding for the quest in 1993. It's not the only organization doing SETI, but it's the leader in the field. The Allen Telescope Array, or ATA, was launched with $50 million in contributions from software billionaire Paul Allen and others — and if the array ever takes in 350 linked antennas, as it's designed to do, it would rank among the world's premier radio-telescope facilities.
But in light of the financial challenges, that's a huge "if" right now. In fact, until last week it wasn't certain if or when the ATA would come back online.
After the antenna array was mothballed, the institute and its fans in Silicon Valley set up a Web-based campaign for donations, known as SETIstars. The campaign kicked off in June, and about 45 days later, on Aug. 3, contributions hit the $200,000 mark. That was how much money the SETI Institute said would be needed to bring the antenna array back into operation. (Since then more than $4,000 in additional contributions have come in.)
Among the contributors are Jodie Foster, the actress who played a SETI researcher in the movie "Contact"; science-fiction writer Larry Niven, creator of the "Ringworld" series of novels; and Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, who flew around the moon in 1968. "It is absolutely irresponsible of the human race not to be searching for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence," Anders wrote in a note accompanying his contribution.
Donations are still needed, as well as volunteers to crunch the data. Link -via Engadget