Sail to the stars with the SETI Institute

Swan Hellenic is a proud partner of the SETI Institute – a space and Earth science research organisation that supports NASA, NSF, private industry and academia in answering some of humanity's most profound questions.

In our partnership with the SETI Institute, we aim to provide our guests with expert insights into the history and latest discoveries in astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology and planetary science. SETI stands for 'search for extra-terrestrial intelligence', and part of SETI's research is looking for forms of life within and beyond our solar system - an exciting prospect for our team and our guests!

We are thrilled to have several SETI Institute scientists join us as guest speakers on a selection of our voyages. These scientists will engage our guests with never- before-seen presentations on explorations around Earth and beyond. Our guests will also receive a demonstration of the SETI Institute equipment installed on board, including an advanced telescope.

Explore our brochure to see more information.

SETI Speakers
David Grinspoon – Astrobiologist

David is a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and his research focuses on climate evolution on Earth-like planets. His work involves searching for potential conditions for life elsewhere in the universe and the impacts of human activities on Earth. He has authored and co-authored several publications, and his book Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life won the PEN Center USA Literary Award. David has appeared on multiple television shows, radio programmes and podcasts and has even had an asteroid named after him - Asteroid 22410 Grinspoon.

You can listen to David speak about his fascinating work in person on our Unspoilt Wilds of Southwest Africa cruise, departing on the 3rd of April, 2023. Cross the equator on this extraordinary tour of the West African coast whilst learning about the incredible worlds above.

Simon Steel – Observational Astrophysicist

Simon is Deputy Director of the Carl Sagan Center for Research at the SETI Institute. Specialising in optical spectrophotometry, he also has an interest in the star formation histories of galaxies. Simon has held lectureships at Harvard University, University College London and University College Dublin. He is also an eight-time recipient of Harvard’s Certificate of Distinction in Teaching award for undergraduate education. With an interest in special needs audiences, Simon co-wrote for NASA and the Chandra X-Ray Center the first ever braille book on multiwavelength astrophysics: Touch the Invisible Sky.

Simon will join us aboard our Lands of the Celts cruise, departing Portsmouth on the 23rd of May, 2023. Delve into the mysteries of the ancient people that once ruled these lands as you ponder the same stars they once stood under.

Bill Diamond – SETI Institute President and CEO

Bill is a Silicon Valley technology veteran with over 30 years of experience in laser photonics and optical communications networks, X-ray imaging, and semiconductor processing technologies. Prior to joining the institute in 2015, Bill held various executive management positions and his corporate background ranges from venture-backed start-ups to Fortune 100 multinationals. Bill is a current member of the Optical Society of America, the International Astronomical Congress and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Science and Innovation Council (BASIC) in San Francisco.

We will have the pleasure of Bill’s company on our Arctic Islands & Fjords cruise, which departs Reykjavik on the 23rd of June, 2023. The remote vastness of the Arctic seems like a fitting setting to learn more about the search for life beyond Earth.

Dr Margaret (Maggie) Turnbull – Astrobiologist

Dr Turnbull’s expertise is in identifying planetary systems that are capable of supporting life as we know it. She developed a ‘Catalogue of Habitable Stellar Systems’ for use in the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and she has studied the spectrum of the Earth to identify tell-tale signatures of life. Maggie is currently leading two NASA-funded teams to study the nearest star systems and their prospects for hosting habitable planets. When not thinking about alien worlds and missions to explore them, Maggie can be found keeping honeybees, teaching yoga and meditation, raising monarchs, tapping sugar maples, and cross-country skiing.

Maggie will join us on our Historic Ports of the Western Seaboard voyage, departing from Amsterdam on the 8th of August, 2023. Explore the medieval port cities and ancient towns whilst contemplating if such complex history could exist on another planet.

Pablo Sorbon – Research Scientist

Pablo has a strong interest in robotic space exploration and specialises in studying places on Earth that are similar to environments on other planets and moons. He began his academic research career at the European Space Agency before receiving his PhD from the Universities of Oslo and Valladolid. He has since worked at Washington University, McGill University, the Canadian Space Agency, the SETI Institute and NASA. His technology development work includes the laser tools that are used to explore Mars.

Pablo has a particular interest in how space technology can benefit the earth and vice versa, and you can listen to him speak about ‘Arctic resources and their role in space sciences and the energy transition’ on our Greenland in Depth cruise, departing on the 26th of August 2023. Travel to some of the Arctic’s most remote corners and discover how this vast, wild place is connected to the stars above.

Seth Shostak – Senior Astronomer

With degrees in physics and astronomy from Princeton University and Caltech, Seth has a long history of research in radio astronomy. He has been a major contributor to the search for extra-terrestrial life since 1991.

In addition to his research work, Seth has written approximately 600 popular articles on science and technology for magazines, hosts the SETI Institute’s weekly science radio show ‘Big Picture Science’, and is the author of four books, most recently of Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist’s Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence from National Geographic, as well as a college textbook on astrobiology, Life in the Universe, published by Addison-Wesley.
Guests on our Voyage to the Northwest Passage cruise, departing from Greenland’s Kangerlussuaq on the 5th of September 2023, will be able to indulge in fascinating extra-terrestrial discussions with Seth. He’ll be joining us to speak about mankind’s search for aliens whilst we sail through the other-worldly Arctic landscape.

Dr Dava Newman – Visionary Astronautics Researcher

Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at MIT and a Harvard–MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology faculty member, Dr Newman has been the principal investigator on four spaceflight missions aboard the Space Shuttle, the Russian Mir Space Station and the International Space Station. She served as NASA Deputy Administrator between 2015-17, was the first female engineer in this role, and was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Her research and teaching expertise include aerospace biomedical engineering, human performance, advanced space suit design, AI/ML for climate, leadership development, innovation, and technology and policy.

Meet the incredibly accomplished Dr Newman aboard our Weddell Sea Discovery cruise, which departs from Ushuaia on the 23rd of December, 2023. Spend Christmas and New Year in Antarctica, learning about the scientific significance of the seventh continent from a world-renowned expert.