Bill Nye the Science Guy to Lead Planetary Society

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

"We are very excited that Bill is taking thisposition," said co-founder and former director LouisFriedman, who led the Pasadena, Calif.-based Planetary Society for the lastthree decades. "He will do a terrific job directing the Planetary Societyinto the future, and I look forward to seeing where he will lead theorganization that I was privileged to serve for so long."

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

Nye, a mechanical engineer, actor and comedian who has won18 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 ofthe 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 writtenstatement. "I'm a Charter Member of the Planetary Society. Now asExecutive Director, I?ve been given the chance to share the passion, beauty,and joy of space exploration with other members and the world."

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

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

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

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Contributing Writer

Zoe Macintosh is a science writer who covered human spaceflight, astronomy and science for in 2010. She also covered general science for's sister site Live Science. Zoe studied English literature and physics at Smith College, where she also wrote for the Smith Sophian. Her work has also appeared in the National Association of Science Writers website.