The Planetary Society announced today that Dr. Wesley T. Huntress, Jr. of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. and Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium, New York, are taking the helm of the organization as President and Vice-president of the world's largest space interest group. Dr. Bruce Murray, co-founder of the Society and its president since 1997, is stepping up to the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Dr. Louis Friedman continues in his position as Executive Director of The Planetary Society and as an officer on its Board of Directors.
"We are excited and gratified to have two outstanding leaders of space science take over as principal officers of the Society," said Murray. "Both Wes and Neil are professionally identified with the popularization of space exploration and are committed to the vision of The Planetary Society. They insure a bright future for the Society as we make our transition from founders of the organization to successors."
The Planetary Society's mission is to inspire the people of Earth through education, research, and public participation to explore other worlds and seek extraterrestrial life. Dedicated to the peaceful, international exploration of space, the Society's new officers intend to lead the organization forward into a new era of wonder and discovery throughout the solar system.
"I'm enthusiastic to take over as president of The Planetary Society at a time when our message of peace and hope for the future is more relevant than ever," said Huntress.
Huntress, who has served as Vice-President of the Society since 2000, is elected as President of the Board for a five-year term. Tyson, a member of the Board of Directors since 1997, is elected for a three-year term as Vice-President.
"Having served as a board member for the past four years, I now look forward to what more I can do for The Planetary Society in the role of Vice President," said Tyson.
Huntress is the Director of the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institute of Washington, D.C. As the Associate Administrator for Space Sciences at NASA until 1998, he was a key architect of the revitalization of the planetary exploration program and of NASA's new Origins program. Some of the planetary programs that Dr. Huntress initiated while at NASA HQ include the Mars Pathfinder mission, the Mars Surveyor Program for long-term exploration of Mars, the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission, and the Discovery program of low-cost planetary missions. Huntress enjoyed a 20-year career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an astrochemist before coming to NASA headquarters. While at JPL, Dr. Huntress served as an investigator on the European Giotto Halley's Comet mission and was the pre-Project Scientist for the Cassini mission, currently en route to Saturn.
Tyson is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. He is a Visiting Research Scientist in astrophysics at Princeton University, where he also teaches. Tyson was the project scientist for the reconstruction of New York City's Hayden Planetarium, which was re-born as part of the acclaimed Rose Center for Earth and Space. Tyson's professional research interests are varied, but they include star formation, exploding stars, and the chemical evolution of the Milky Way. He writes a monthly column on the universe for Natural History magazine and is frequently sought by the media to interpret cosmic discoveries for the public. His recent books include a memoir, The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist, and the co-authored One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos, which won the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award for 2001.