MESSENGER’s flyby today of Mercury gave cause for celebration. Planetary Society Vice President Bill Nye the Science Guy® took to the airwaves on Planetary Radio with a special segment showcasing the NASA’s mission, the first spacecraft in 33 years to visit our solar system’s innermost planet.
Listeners can tune in weekly to Planetary Radio to hear a special segment from Nye, one of America's most popular and entertaining educators. A grant from the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation to The Planetary Society provides funding for the two-minute commentaries, in which Nye will touch on topics ranging from rockets to rovers to rendezvous with planets.
"The Messenger flyby will send back images we've never seen before and data we've never pondered,” said Nye. “A day on Mercury lasts over half of its year. The temperature on the surface swings over 1100 degrees Celsius. Yet there may be ice at its north and south pole. It's a remarkable place. I, for one, am looking forward to learning more about the fastest planet in our Solar System."
Nye’s mission for many years has been to interest the public in general, and kids in particular, to the “way cool” wonders of science. Scientist, comedian, teacher, and author, Nye became a household name with his innovative, fast-paced television series, Bill Nye the Science Guy. Nye earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell University, where he took a class from Planetary Society founder Carl Sagan, and spent several years working as an engineer until he combined his dual love of science and comedy to create the Science Guy.
"We are delighted that Bill Nye has joined us on Planetary Radio, adding his unique enthusiasm and talent to a variety of topics, including today's exciting Mercury flyby!" said Bruce Betts, Planetary Society Director of Projects.
Planetary Radio is the only half-hour public radio program in the United States devoted solely to space exploration and serves up an entertaining mix of interesting guests, lighthearted trivia and space news updates.
The show currently airs on XM Satellite Radio (Thursdays, channel 133, 7:30 PM EST) as well as on more than 100 independent radio stations across the US and overseas. Planetary Radio is also carried on National Public Radio's Public Radio Satellite System, and is available via the web or podcast and from iTunes. Past programs are archived on Tthe Planetary Society's website.
Mercury is the least explored terrestrial planet; fully half of the little rocky world has never been seen up close. MESSENGER will change that, capturing a comprehensive survey of the planet's cratered and rocky surface, vaporous atmosphere, and inexplicable magnetic field using seven science instruments.
Today’s flyby will be MESSENGER’s first encounter with Mercury. To conserve on fuel, the spacecraft is relying on gravity assist flybys of Earth, Venus (twice), and Mercury (3 times) before settling into orbit around Mercury in March of 2011. The Earth and Venus flybys already took place. After three Mercury flybys, the spacecraft will enter orbit in 2011.
Planetary Radio recently celebrated its fifth year on the air and with it, ever increasing listenership. The Planetary Society is now seeking additional underwriting support to continue expanding Planetary Radio's reach to generations of all ages.