For the first time in 30 years, the Planetary Society has named a new chief, and it?s Bill Nye the Science Guy. ??

"We are very excited that Bill is taking this position," said co-founder and former director Louis Friedman, who led the Pasadena, Calif.-based Planetary Society for the last three decades. "He will do a terrific job directing the Planetary Society into the future, and I look forward to seeing where he will lead the organization that I was privileged to serve for so long."

Friedman will continue to direct projects like the solar sail project Lightsail-1, and other initiatives, society officials said in an announcement.

Nye, a mechanical engineer, actor and comedian who has won 18 Emmys for his work on television aimed at explaining science to the public, has served as vice-president of the society since 2005. He has been a member of the society's board of directors for over a decade.

"As my astronomy professor Carl Sagan used to say, 'When you?re in love, you want to tell the world,'" Nye said in a written statement. "I'm a Charter Member of the Planetary Society. Now as Executive Director, I?ve been given the chance to share the passion, beauty, and joy of space exploration with other members and the world."

Nye said the class with Sagan, taken while he earned his mechanical engineering degree at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, was what first opened him up to the wonders of astronomy. Only a few years later, Sagan became a co-founder of the Planetary Society along with Friedman and geologist Bruce Murray.

The society's new vice president is Heidi Hammel, who has been a member of the society's board since 2005, and is the senior research scientist and co-director of research at the Space Science Institute in Colorado, a gathering-spot for planetary scientists who work independently of universities.?

The Planetary Society promotes space exploration through a magazine, radio show, and website, and directs several citizen-funded initiatives. The non-profit group was founded in 1980. ?