There is a great sound bite from the 1997 movie Contact, where young Ellie and her dad discuss the possibilities of life “out there”:
Young Ellie: Dad, do you think there’s people on other planets?
Ted Arroway: I don’t know, Sparks. But I guess I’d say if it is just us… seems like an awful waste of space
Contact, while science fiction, and was inspired by the research using the SETI Allen Telescope Array, was about real “possibilities”. I watch the movie every so often and wonder why we stopped moon missions and stayed home, content to orbit our own plant. And I had a small measure of satisfaction that at least we were using technology to identify other worlds that could support life. And now all of that is on hold.
When I think about the fact that all SETI needs to fund the Allen array until new funding (hopefully) kicks in around 2013 is five million dollars, I have to wonder why no one has stepped up to the plate to offer a helping hand. You know, people like Richard Branson, who has funded Virgin Galactic, and who has demonstrated an interest in the world beyond our small little rock.
So, for the next couple of years, at least, if ET decides to call us, he’ll either get no answer or a busy signal, with no opportunity to leave us voice mail.