Join Bill Nye and leading NASA scientists as they celebrate 50 years of enthralling solar system exploration, and look forward to what's to come.
Bethany Ehlmann is an Assistant Professor at Caltech and a Jet Propulsion Laboratory Research Scientist. Her research interests include:
compositional analysis of planetary surfaces; environmental change over
Mars history; chemical and physical weathering processes on terrestrial
planets; infrared spectroscopy and quantitative radiative transfer
modeling; habitability, rock-microbe interactions, biomarker
preservation; early Earth surface environments; environmental science
and applications of remote sensing; science policy.
Kevin Hand is an astrobiologist and planetary scientist at JPL. He is also the founder of Cosmos Education and was its president until 2007.
Professor of Space Physics at U.C.L.A. and Principal Investigator for
the Magnetometer Investigation on the Galileo Orbiter, Margaret Galland
Kivelson is passionate about her career. As she put it in a recent
Graduation Address at U.C.L.A., "what goal could be more inspiring than
to understand the origin and evolution of the solar system and the
universe?" Yet when she embarked on this career path as an
undergraduate in the late forties, her expectations for herself
reflected the low expectations society had for her as a woman interested
When Margaret Kivelson was in high school, one uncle suggested that
she become a dietitian; he "probably thought the Department of Home
Economics was a good spot for me," Kivelson remembers. As an
undergraduate at Radcliffe
and later as a graduate student at Harvard University (where she
obtained her Ph.D. in Physics in 1957), Kivelson had few female mentors,
since women were "virtually absent" from the sciences at the time.
Having overcome significant professional obstacles herself,
Kivelson has been dedicated to improving the status of women in academia
throughout her career, especially by encouraging their involvement in
the physical sciences. She served on the first Chancellor's Advisory
Committee on the Status of Women, later becoming its Chair, was
President of the Association of Academic Women at UCLA, and helped
initiate the Women's Studies Program on campus.
Most of Kivelson's work has been devoted to studying planetary
magnetospheres, the regions around many of the planets of the solar
system in which the planetary magnetic fields trap charged particles,
ions and electrons. Magnetospheres are responsible for such spectacles
as the aurora borealis in the nighttime polar sky, and for less
desirable phenomena such as blown power transformers and sound
disturbances that overwhelm communication channels on earth.
These disturbances may be linked to changes in the Sun's magnetic field.
Within this field of study, Kivelson has concentrated on Jupiter and the
electromagnetic currents that flow between this planet and its moons
Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
In 1977, Kivelson was named Principal Investigator for the
Magnetometer Investigation on the Galileo Orbiter, a spacecraft inserted
into orbit in 1995, designed to spend several years making measurements
in orbit around Jupiter. She served as an Overseer of Harvard College
from 1977-1983, chaired the department of Earth and Space Sciences at
UCLA from 1984-1987, and has held visiting appointments in France and
inChina. Meanwhile, Kivelson has authored some 200 papers on space
plasmas and planetary properties, and edited several books on space
science. She has two children, Valerie Kivelson, Professor of History
at the University of Michigan, and Steven Kivelson, Professor of Physics
at UCLA, and five grandchildren.
Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a
man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to
help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes
our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something
Bill has been doing most of his life.
“My family is funny,” he says, “I mean funny in the sense that we
make people laugh, not just funny looking.” Bill discovered that he had a
talent for tutoring in high school, and while growing up in Washington,
DC. He spent afternoons and summers de-mystifying math for his fellow
students. When he wasn’t hitting the books, Bill was hitting the road on
his bicycle. He spent hours taking it apart to “see how it worked.”
Bill rode in the unusual Cannonball 300 a few times. It’s 300 miles in
one day, from Seattle to Spokane, Washington. One year, he finished
first unsupported. Now, he commutes by bike in the Los Angeles area.
He’s down to just five bicycles.
Bill’s fascination with how things work led him to Cornell University
and a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After graduation, he headed for
Seattle and work as an engineer at Boeing. “There’s a hydraulic
resonance suppressor “Quinke” tube on the 747 horizontal stabilizer
drive system that I like to think of as my tube,” he says.
“I’ve always loved airplanes and flight. The space program was very
important to me as a kid. I have a photo from the Apollo 11 mission with
the caption, ‘Aldrin’s visor reflects Armstrong…’ Oh yeah, and they’re
on the Moon!” exclaims Bill. Now, Bill and Buzz Aldrin are pretty well
acquainted. “We see each other at space exploration events.”
It was in Seattle that Bill began to combine his love of science with
his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest
and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by
night. “I’ve never met Mr. Martin, but I’d love to. He created this
tension during which the audience had to choose to laugh. So, the laughs
were deep and real, like you had to be there- but you were,” says Bill.
Eventually, Bill quit his day engineering day job and made the
transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s
home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.”
This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared
before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at
KING-TV, Seattle’s NBC affiliate. With fellow KING-TV alumni Jim McKenna
and Erren Gottlieb, Bill made a number of award-winning shows,
including the show he became so well known for, “Bill Nye the Science
While working on the Science Guy show, Bill won seven national Emmy
Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in
five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five kids’ books
about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of
Bill Nye is the host of three currently-running television series.
“The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of
Nye” airs on PBS stations across the country.
Bill’s latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff
Happens.” It’s about environmentally responsible choices that consumers
can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you’ll
see Bill in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They
compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest
carbon footprint. Bill has 4,000 watts of solar power and a
solar-boosted hot water system. There’s also the low water use garden
and underground watering system. It’s fun for him; he’s an engineer with
an energy conservation hobby.
Bill’s next project is “Solving for X,” where he’ll show us how to do
algebra along with the P, B, & J – the Passion, Beauty, and Joy –
For the last few years, Bill has served as Vice President of The
Planetary Society, the world’s largest space-interest group. He recently
spoke on behalf of the Society at the International Astronautical
Federation Congress in Glasgow, Scotland. He has also spoken in
Hyderabad, India and Beijing, China. Unlike the days of the cold war,
space Exploration has become an international undertaking.
One thing Bill is very proud of is the MarsDials, the two sundials on
residing on Mars. These provide the only message to the future that’s
been carried on spacecraft since the Voyager missions launched over 30
It all started in 1998, when Bill was invited to a meeting at Cornell
concerning the nascent missions to Mars. He took one look at the
“photometric calibration targets,” and said, “Hey, we’ve got to make
these into sundials!” Bill’s dad, Ned Nye, had been a prisoner of war
and had lived without electricity for nearly four years. He became
fascinated with sundials. When he got back to the US, he married his
college sweetheart, Jacquie Jenkins. She had been recruited by the Navy
to work on secret codes because she was good at math and science. Ned
and Jacquie fostered Bill’s interest in science and Bill caught Ned’s
love of gnomonics-sundials. Bill connected the Cornell scientists with
Woody Sullivan, a University of Washington professor, astronomer and
sundial expert. Now, we have the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars
both fitted with photometric calibration MarsDials. On their edges it
describes the mission, and says, “To those who visit here, we wish a
safe journey and the joy of discovery.” Bill says, “This is the essence
of the scientific enterprise, the Joy of Discovery. That’s what the
process of science is all about.”
Bill visits Cornell regularly as a Professor in his own right as part
of the Frank H.T. Rhodes Visiting Professorship. In part as a tribute
to his parents and their strong belief in the value of education, Bill
has designed and funded a clock to be installed on Rhodes Hall at
Cornell. It will be visible from a main thoroughfare, the stadium, and
the baseball field.
Bill worked extensively to set up and promote the EarthDial Project, a
set of sundials around the world visually reminiscent of the MarsDials
and linked together on the World Wide Web. People everywhere can use the
site and the process of building their own sundials to gain a deep
understanding of geography, astronomy, and our society’s complex system
Bill, the inventor, has two patents on educational products – a
magnifier made of water and an abacus that does arithmetic like a
computer. An occasional athlete, Bill has a patent pending on a device
to help people learn to throw a baseball better. His next patent is an
improved toe shoe for ballerinas.
America’s favorite stand-up scientist hasn’t changed much from that
kid growing up in Washington, DC. He still rides his bike to work. He’ll
pull out his Periodic Table of the Elements or his Map of Human Skin
Tone from his wallet or show them to you on his phone display.
Bill Nye is a graduate of Cornell with a Bachelors of Science degree
in Mechanical Engineering. He holds three Honorary Doctorate degrees
from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Goucher College, and Johns
Hopkins. He has delivered commencement addresses at the University of
California Santa Barbara, RPI, Goucher, Hopkins, Harvey Mudd College,
Bill is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s large space interest organization.
Edward Stone joined Caltech
as a research fellow in physics after receiving his Master of Science
degree and Ph.D. in physics at the University of Chicago. Over the years,
he held a variety of positions, from assistant professor to Vice President
for Astronomical Facilities. In 1972 he became project scientist for
the Voyager mission, a position he currently still holds. He was the
Director of JPL from January 1991 to April 2001, when he went back to
teaching at Caltech.
While Stone was Director,
JPL's Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover sent back images that
were seen by millions of people on television and the Web. Among other
successes were the Mars Global Surveyor, Deep Space 1, TOPEX/Poseidon,
NASA Scatterometer, and the launch of Cassini, Stardust, and 2001 Mars
Director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr. Charles Elachi gives a behind-the-scenes look into "Seven of Minutes of Terror," the video documenting the unprecedented and historic Mars rover landing in August 2012.