Georgia Tech Scientist Britney Schmidt Named to Planetary Society’s Board of Directors

College of Sciences assistant professor joins “Star Trek: Voyager” actor Robert Picardo, Bill Nye The Science Guy, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

Britney E. Schmidt, an assistant professor in the College of Sciences’ School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has been named to the Board of Directors of The Planetary Society. The world’s largest nonprofit space interest organization announced Schmidt’s appointment on June 21, 2016, together with that of actor Robert Picardo.

Schmidt brings to The Planetary Society Board a wealth of knowledge and expertise in small bodies, solar system ices, and the habitability of ocean worlds. Schmidt has been involved with NASA Science Definition Teams for NASA missions, including the development of the Europa Flagship Mission (Clipper); the 2012 and current Europa Lander mission concepts; and the Large Ultra-Violet, Optical, Infra-Red (LUVOIR) space telescope. She is a co-investigator on the Europa Flagship Radar Instrument and an associate of the Dawn Mission. Schmidt also does field work in Antarctica, leading the development and deployment of underwater robotic vehicles beneath thick ice shelves to understand the habitability of Europa’s ice shell and ocean and the fate of ice at Earth’s poles.

“Britney Schmidt's expertise as a scientist and her passion as an advocate will add new force to our space policy efforts to secure a robust future for space exploration,” says Heidi Hammel, vice president of the Board. “Her work on Europa and other research will advance our goals to explore other worlds and seek answers to questions about other life in the cosmos.”

“I am thrilled to be joining the Board of The Planetary Society,” Schmidt says. “This is a particularly exciting time, as the world moves toward a technology and space-based economy, The Planetary Society and its members are poised to make a huge impact on the direction that space science and technology takes in the coming few decades. I can't think of a better way to help ensure the future of solar system exploration.”

Schmidt and distinguished actor Robert Picardo are the newest members of The Planetary Society Board. A long-time friend of the society’s, Picardo is recognized around the globe for his portrayal of the curmudgeonly Holographic Doctor on seven seasons of “Star Trek: Voyager.”

Responsible for governing and setting the organization’s policies and future directions, The Planetary Society’s volunteer Board of Directors is made up of leaders chosen for their passion for and knowledge of space exploration.

In addition to Picardo, other members of the board who are household names are the society’s CEO, Bill Nye, famously known as the Science Guy, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist presenter of the popular 2014 science documentary “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.”

“Our Board of Directors is extraordinary,” says Bill Nye. “We have world-class leaders in academia, the arts, astronomy, astrophysics, planetary science, geology, investing, space policy, education, and history. There are a few patent holders, too. They bring the essential expertise and a powerful perspective that empowers the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration. That’s what we do.”

“Britney’s appointment is high recognition of her expertise in and advocacy for space exploration,” says College of Sciences Dean Paul M. Goldbart. “Through Britney’s seat at The Planetary Society’s Board, Georgia Tech gains another channel through which its insights about space research can be shared broadly, letting the world know what Georgia Tech thinks.” 

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  • A veteran of Antarctic fieldwork, Britney Schmidt is keenly interested in the habitability of icy worlds to search for life beyond Earth. Photo courtesy of Britney Schmidt/Georgia Tech. A veteran of Antarctic fieldwork, Britney Schmidt is keenly interested in the habitability of icy worlds to search for life beyond Earth. Photo courtesy of Britney Schmidt/Georgia Tech.
  • Britney Schmidt receives a pin of The Planetary Society from the CEO, currently Bill Nye, a tradition for new members of the Society’s Board of Directors. Photo courtesy of Britney Schmidt. Britney Schmidt receives a pin of The Planetary Society from the CEO, currently Bill Nye, a tradition for new members of the Society’s Board of Directors. Photo courtesy of Britney Schmidt.

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