The SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute has been forced to pull the plug on its radio satellites due to lack of government funding.
In a letter to donors, SETI’s CEO Tom Pierson, said that because of the lack of operational funding the organisation’s brand new $50 million telescope array as to be put into hibernation. The array was constructed after raising money from private donors including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
“Effective this week, the [Allen Telescope Array] has been placed into hibernation due to funding shortfalls for operations of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory where the [array] is located. This means that the equipment is unavailable for normal observations and is being maintained in a safe state by a significantly reduced staff,” he wrote.
SETI scientists say that the lack of funding comes at time when NASA’s Kepler discovered 1,235 planets in outer space. Of these newly discovered planets, dozens are roughly the size of Earth and may have adequate temperatures that may support life.
"There is a huge irony, that a time when we discover so many planets to look at, we don't have the operating funds to listen." said SETI Director Jill Tarter in a statement to Mercury News.