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Dr. John Billingham, who as a NASA official in the 1970s helped persuade the federal government to use radio telescopes to scour the universe for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, even as critics mocked the idea, died on Aug. 4 in Grass Valley, Calif. He was 83.
“The whole picture is that we are the newcomers on the block, that they’re out there, other civilizations that are much older than we are,” Frank Drake, a radio astronomer who in 1960 started seeking signals from beyond the solar system, said in an interview. “Anybody we find would probably be way ahead of us in longevity and probably in sophistication.”
In 2009 he was inducted into the NASA Ames Hall of Fame where he was recognized for his efforts as the Father of SETI in NASA. After retiring from NASA he joined the SETI Institute as Senior Scientist, and in 1995 he became a Member of the SETI Institute's Board of Trustees, serving a term as Vice-Chair.