Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye Assume New Leadership Roles

Laurie Leshin Joins Board of Directors

The Planetary Society,  the world’s largest space interest organization, has named Neil deGrasse Tyson its new Chairman of the Board and Bill Nye the new Vice President.  Tyson, an astrophysicist and director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, succeeds Bruce Murray, who is retiring from that position.  Nye, known to millions of kids as Bill Nye the Science Guy, is stepping into the Vice President’s position formerly filled by Tyson.

Also joining the Board of Directors is Laurie Leshin, The Dee and John Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences and Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University.  Society co-founders, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman remain  members of its Board.

“Neil and Bill will bring a new energy and broad perspective to the leadership of our Board, as well as a deep love of science and exploration,” said Louis Friedman, the Society’s Executive Director.  

“Their insight and expertise, along with Laurie’s, will prove invaluable as the Society expands both in scope and influence,” added Murray.

A native New Yorker, Tyson said that he realized he wanted to study space science from age nine, the first moment he looked up at the Moon through a pair of binoculars.  Tyson, an astrophysicist and educator, recently hosted the four-part series “Origins” on PBS and has written numerous books on the universe and humanity’s place within it.  In 2004, Tyson was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the commission to implement the United States space exploration policy, dubbed the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission.  The members held several forums around the country to assess the opinions of the American public about the space program and to make recommendations about the direction the program should take in the coming decades. 

“With planetary orbiters, landers and rovers making sustained headlines, and with cosmic discoveries via ground-based and space-borne telescopes at an all-time high, and with a renewed federal vision for America’s space program, I accept the chairmanship of the Board of The Planetary Society at an auspicious time,” said Tyson.

Bill Nye is a scientist, comedian, teacher, and author who introduced millions of kids to the “way-cool wonders of science” with his television series, Bill Nye the Science Guy. He has a seminal childhood memory of flying a rubber band-powered airplane and figuring out how make it turn left. It was the start of his life-long love of airplanes and spacecraft.  Nye earned a degree in mechanical engineering and spent several years working as an engineer until he combined his dual love of science and comedy to create the Science Guy.  His TV program 100 Greatest Discoveries is currently airing in eight installments on the Science Channel.

“When I first studied it under Carl Sagan in college, planetary exploration was exciting,” said Nye.  “It’s even more exciting now, with discoveries about the nature of stars and the climates of planets being made almost weekly. I am honored to accept the Vice Presidency of The Planetary Society – an organization created to help people all over the world participate in exploration of the Cosmos.”

Laurie Leshin graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a PhD in Geochemistry and currently oversees the world’s largest university-based collection of meteorites at Arizona State University.  Not only does Leshin study Martian meteorites that have been found on Earth, but she leads a team of scientists proposing a round-trip mission to one day collect samples on Mars and return them for study. With Tyson, Leshin served on the nine-member “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission.


Susan Lendroth at (626) 793-5100 ext. 237 or by e-mail at


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 ( ).