Mars and Planetary Science Experts Available for Commentary Following NASA December 3 Press Conference

For Immediate Release
November 30, 2012


PASADENA, CA (November 30, 2012) -- In a press conference at the American Geophysical Union meeting on Monday, December 3 in San Francisco, NASA will provide an update of the Curiosity Mars Mission and announce its findings of recent data returned from the Mars Curiosity Rover. To enhance the public's understanding of this complex program, The Planetary Society is making available several expert commentators to help explain the findings and provide overall perspective of the Mission.

Potential discoveries have ignited public interest in the mission, again demonstrating that the proposed budget cuts to NASA's planetary program are in deep discord with public interest. "No matter what is announced on Monday, the remarkable public interest shows that what happens on other worlds fascinates everyone on Earth," said Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society.

The Planetary Society believes that a strong space program reflects a strong nation. As such, the Planetary Society advocates that NASA’s Planetary Science budget be restored to $1.5 billion in the upcoming 2014 budget.

Note: Media should contact Diane Murphy ([email protected]; T. 202.361.9681) to make arrangements for commentary. Emily Lakdawalla and Jim Bell will be in attendance at the AGU Press Conference in San Francisco. In addition, the Planetary Society will be issuing a statement from Bill Nye at the conclusion of NASA's press conference.

Expert Commentary is available from:

  • Bill Nye, Science Guy; CEO, Planetary Society
  • Jim Bell, President, Planetary Society; Principal Investigator of the MER Pancam Instrument and MSL Science Team member; Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University.
  • Bruce Betts, PhD, Director of Projects for the Planetary Society and formerly of NASA HQ. ([email protected])
  • Emily Lakdawalla, Senior Editor,, and Planetary Evangelist, popular planetary science blogger on Twitter: @elakdawalla. ([email protected])


Bill Nye, the Science Guy, was introduced to astronomy at Cornell University in a class taught by Carl Sagan himself, one of the original founders of The Planetary Society. Nye’s mission for many years has been to turn on 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 television series, Bill Nye the Science Guy. Nye earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell University and spent several years working as an engineer at the Boeing Co., until he combined his dual love of science and comedy to create the Science Guy and lead the Planetary Society.

Dr. Jim Bell, one of the world's leading Mars experts, has been on the science teams of some of the most successful Mars missions in history, including Pathfinder, Sprit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. He is the author of several books, including Postcards from Mars and Mars 3D, which highlight the images returned from the Spirit and Opportunity missions. 

Dr. Bruce Betts is a planetary scientist who earned a B.S. in physics and math and an M.S. in Applied Physics from Stanford and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science with a minor in Geology from Caltech.  He spent several years with San Juan Institute (later named Planetary Science Institute) as a Research Scientist, and later Senior Research Scientist.  He studied planetary surfaces, including Mars, the Moon, and Jupiter’s moons, using infrared and other data, and published several scientific papers on these subjects.  Dr. Betts spent three years at NASA headquarters, managing planetary instrument development programs to design spacecraft science instruments and can help put the NASA announcement into a broad historical context and explain how it fits in to NASA's exploration goals. 

Emily Lakdawalla earned a Masters in Science in planetary geology from Brown University, and has been reporting on NASA missions for more than a decade for The Planetary Society.  She has expert knowledge of the day-to-day operations, science goals, and instrumentation of the Curiosity mission, and is well known as an excellent and enthusiastic communicator of science.

About The Planetary Society

With a global community of more than 2 million space enthusiasts, The Planetary Society is the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organization. Founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman and today led by CEO Bill Nye, we empower the public to take a meaningful role in advancing space exploration through advocacy, education outreach, scientific innovation, and global collaboration. Together with our members and supporters, we’re on a mission to explore worlds, find life off Earth, and protect our planet from dangerous asteroids. To learn more, visit