The Allen Telescope Array in Northern California was shut down due to government budget cuts, but more than 2,400 donors, including “Contact” star Jodie Foster, gave enough money to keep the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute-run facility open a little longer.
Foster played Dr. Ellie Arroway in the film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel “Contact.” A good chunk of the film involves Foster’s character running around the country looking for someone to fund her radio telescopes, which she uses to find alien intelligence.
Although more than $200,000 in donations will be enough to get the telescopes humming again, the SETI Institute is hoping a little government work will cover the lab’s annual cost of $2.5 million. With funding for science evaporating, guess which department of the United States government is still flush with cash? —PZS
The SETI Institute says the fund should be enough to keep the telescopes operating until the end of the year, though the plan is still dependent on the institute receiving money from the US Air Force to track space debris that could damage satellites.
SETI Institute Astronomer Seth Shostak told BBC News, the deal with the Air Force is not yet done but he said he is fairly confident it will go through. Even then the money will need to be ratified by Congress and so there may be a delay. He hopes the array will re-open in September or October.