"We're not completely out of the woods yet, but everybody's smiling here," the institute's chief executive officer, Tom Pierson, told me today.
In April, the institute had to put its big ear for hearing E.T.'s radio call, the 42-antenna Allen Telescope Array in Northern California, into "hibernation" due to budget woes. The biggest hit was the loss of funding by the University of California at Berkeley, the institute's partner for operating the antenna array.
The SETI Institute has been around for decades: It stepped in to help keep the search for alien radio signals active after NASA cut off funding for the quest in 1993. It's not the only organization doing SETI, but it's the leader in the field. The Allen Telescope Array, or ATA, was launched with $50 million in contributions from software billionaire Paul Allen and others — and if the array ever takes in 350 linked antennas, as it's designed to do, it would rank among the world's premier radio-telescope facilities.