The Planetary Society has added a unique blend of Internet and investment management acumen to its board of directors, as well as bringing two astronauts and an oil industry leader to its advisory council, announced Louis D. Friedman, Planetary Society executive director. 

Newest to the board is Elon Musk, of PayPal fame, who is founder and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, a private rocket development company created in 2002 to develop and launch inexpensive commercial launch vehicles into low-Earth orbit.  He joins the Society’s 13-member board of directors, along with Daniel T. Geraci, former president and CEO of the Boston-based Pioneer Investment Management USA, Inc., and currently president of Phoenix Investment Partners, an asset-management business and subsidiary of the Hartford, Connecticut-based Phoenix Co.

“We are delighted to welcome new blood to our Board and Advisory Council who share our vision and bring a wealth of experience and expertise to help us expand The Planetary Society’s horizons in the coming decade,” said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society.

Elon Musk, 31, is a well-known Internet entrepreneur who co-founded Zip2, a company that developed online city guides, in 1995.  He sold the company to computer industry giant Compaq in 1999, then went on to co-found PayPal, which was sold to eBay in 2002.   The self-taught computer programmer grew up in South Africa, but moved to Kingston, Ontario, at age 17 and enrolled at Queen’s University. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania on a scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business from the Wharton School of Business.  He continued at Wharton and later completed a second undergraduate degree in physics, then entered a PhD program in physics at Stanford University before dropping out to start Zip2.

Dan Geraci, a native of New Britain, Conn., began his career in the investment industry in 1980 as a broker with E.F. Hutton and rose to Vice President of National Sales Development before joining a predecessor firm to Merrill Lynch Canada in 1988.  In 1996 he joined Fidelity Investments Canada in Toronto.  Fidelity brought him to Boston in 1998, where he later was named president of Fidelity’s Private Wealth Management Group prior to joining Pioneer.  Dan is a longtime space industry enthusiast and supporter of The Planetary Society.

The newly named Planetary Society board members are joined by three new Advisory Council members: former Skylab astronaut Owen K. Garriott, four-time space shuttle astronaut Thomas D. Jones, and veteran oil industry leader Norton Belknap.

Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott brings his space flight expertise to the council, having flown twice in space and logging a total of more than 1,427 hours in space.  In 1973, he spent 13 hours, 43 minutes in three separate space walks outside of Skylab.  In 1983, his second flight aboard the space shuttle STS-9 included the first flight of the International Science Station, called Spacelab-1.  On that flight, Garriott, who received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1960, also conducted the first manned amateur radio operations in space.

An Oklahoma native, Garriott left NASA in 1986 to accept the post of Vice President for Space Programs at Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Alabama.  More recently, he accepted a position as Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has traveled extensively collecting extremophiles from very alkaline lakes, Antarctica and other remote locations including diving in a manned submersible to hyperthermal vents (“black smokers”) 8,000 feet below the ocean surface. The collected biological materials are currently being analyzed at the university.

Fellow astronaut Thomas Jones logged nearly 53 days in space and made three space walks totaling more than 19 hours during his 11-year career with NASA.  Jones was mission specialist and then payload commander on two 1994 space shuttle flights of the Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-1 and SRL-2), which produced thousands of digital images of natural and human-caused changes in Earth’s environment. In 1996, Jones flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia, operating its robot arm to release a science satellite, the Wake Shield Facility, and later retrieve it from orbit. In 2001, Jones and his crew delivered the U.S. Destiny Laboratory Module to the International Space Station, which marked the start of on-orbit scientific research aboard the newly assembled space station.

“Our most important challenge as a space-faring society is to choose ambitious goals that will drive humans and our robot explorers far beyond Earth’s environs,” said Jones, a popular author, speaker and consultant, who is working on his second book, Space Station Odyssey, to be published in 2004 by the Smithsonian Institution Press.

With a doctorate in planetary science from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Jones’ awards include the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Award, and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. He is currently a leader in efforts to learn more about the danger posed to Earth by near-Earth objects.

Norton Belknap is a director of Southern Pacific Petroleum and Central Pacific Minerals, and president of Southern Pacific Petroleum USA.  Those companies control more than 17 billion barrels of in situ shale oil in Queensland, Australia. 

A chemical engineer, Belknap served as a member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Advisory Council under former JPL Director Bruce Murray (1976-1982), a co-founder of The Planetary Society. He worked until 1982 at Exxon Corporation, holding such positions as senior vice president of Exxon International and, prior to that, vice president of corporate planning at Exxon Corp.

Currently a trustee of Carnegie Hall and president of the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation, Belknap brings his expertise in natural resource development and technology as well as non-profit management expertise to the Society’s agenda of space exploration initiatives.


Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the search for extraterrestrial life.  With members in over 125 countries, the Society is the largest space interest group in the world.  For more information, contact Susan Lendroth at (626) 793-5100, ext. 237, or by e-mail at (