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Jodie Foster helps keep search for alien life alive

August 12, 2011 |  2:27 pm


Over the past four months, more than 2,000 people have donated money to the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, which has been conducting a serious scientific search for alien life since 1984. The most famous name on that list: Jodie Foster.

"I’m a SETIStar because, just like Ellie Arroway, the ATA is ‘good to go’ and we need to return it to the task of searching newly discovered planetary worlds for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence," the actress wrote in a statement that appears on the website

In the 1997 film "Contact," Foster plays Ellie Arroway, a scientist consumed with finding alien life. The character is based on SETI co-founder Jill Tarter.

SETI needs the support because funding problems have forced the institute to take its Allen Telescope Array offline.

The array consists of 42 linked radio-telescope dishes funded by a $30-million gift from Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen. It's the first group of radio telescopes built from the ground up with the intention of monitoring the universe full-time for radio waves that would indicate life on other planets. In April, however, SETI had to put the array into hibernation mode.

To help get the array back online, SETI put out a fundraising call. It hit its goal of $200,000 with time to spare.

"In Carl Sagan’s book/movie 'Contact' a radio signal from a distant star system ends humanity’s cosmic isolation and changes our world," said Foster's statement. "The Allen Telescope Array could turn science fiction into science fact, but only if it is actively searching the skies. I support the effort to bring the array out of hibernation."

$200,000 won't be enough to get the Array back online, but combined with other funding ideas the organization is working on, it's a start.

"We are so grateful to our donors," Tom Pierson, who co-founded the SETI Institute, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week. "We believe we will be back on the air in September."


E.T. phone home already!

Op-Ed: Funding cut to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence 

SETI Institute's hunt for extraterrestrial life hits budgetary black hole

--Deborah Netburn

Image: A screengrab from the SETI Institute's Setistars website.