Searching for Good Science – The Cancellation of NASA’s SETI Program


S.J. Garber (1999), JBIS52, 3-12

Refcode: 1999.52.3

On Columbus Day, 1992, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) formally initiated a radio astronomy program called SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). Less than a year later, Congress abruptly canceled the program. Why? While there was and still is a debate over the likelihood of finding intelligent extraterrestrial life, virtually all informed parties agreed that the SETI program constituted worthwhile, valid science. Yet, fervor over the federal budget deficit, lack of support from other scientists and aerospace contractors and a significant history of unfounded associations with nonscientific elements combined with bad timing in fall 1993 to make the program an easy target to eliminate. Thus SETI was a relative anomaly in terms of a small, scientifically valid program that was canceled for political expediency.