Bill Nye the Science Guy is heading to the U.S. Capitol today (Jan. 30) to watch President Donald Trump give his first annual State of the Union address, the science celebrity announced on Twitter yesterday.
"Tomorrow night, I will attend the State of the Union as a guest of Congressman Jim Bridenstine — nominee for NASA Administrator — who extended me an invitation in my role as CEO of The Planetary Society," Nye tweeted. The Planetary Society, which was co-founded by famed astronomer Carl Sagan in 1980, is a nonprofit organization that advocates for space exploration and funding for planetary science. [Presidential Visions for Space Exploration: From Ike to Trump]
In a blog post by The Planetary Society, the organization's Space Policy Director Casey Dreier wrote, "We hope to hear the president make supportive statements regarding space exploration, particularly in the context of recent policy directives supporting human exploration of the moon." Last month, President Trump directed NASA to focus on returning humans to the moon when he announced his first space policy directive.
"We also hope to hear a mention of the awesome scientific capability and exploration ability of NASA's science divisions — a topic we raise frequently with members of Congress," Dreier said, adding that Nye plans to meet with members of Congress while in Washington, D.C., to promote "an increased NASA budget, increased priority on NASA's scientific divisions — particularly in the search for life — and for a sustainable, forward-looking effort to get humans beyond low-Earth orbit and on to Mars." [In Photos: President Trump Aims for the Moon with Space Policy Directive 1]
While Nye is attending the State of the Union address as Bridenstine's guest, the Science Guy did make a point to respectfully distance himself from the congressman and the administration. "While the congressman and I disagree on a great many issues – we share a deep respect for NASA and its achievements and a strong interest in the future of space exploration," Nye tweeted.
Over the course of his nomination hearings, Bridenstine has been criticized for his lack of experience in the fields of science and engineering and his rejection of the idea that humans are to blame for climate change.
Similarly, President Trump has repeatedly referred to climate change as a "hoax." Last summer, he ordered the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a worldwide accord aimed to combat climate change.
"My attendance tomorrow should not be interpreted as an endorsement of this administration or of Congressman Bridenstine's nomination, or seen as an acceptance of the recent attacks on science and the scientific community," Nye said.
The State of the Union address is scheduled to begin tonight (Jan. 30) at 9:30 p.m. EST (0230 GMT on Jan. 31). You can watch it on most cable news networks or on the White House YouTube channel.
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.