(CNN) - Years before Bill Nye became the Science Guy, he was a mechanical engineering student at Cornell University, where he took a course with astronomer Carl Sagan.
Sagan, who was instrumental in the planning of NASA missions to other planets and became widely known for his research, writing and public television series, was one of the founders of the Planetary Society. And his student dutifully signed up to become a member.
"I've been a member for over 30 years. And now I'm the head guy, it's quite odd," a surprised-sounding Nye told CNN in an interview in March at the TED2012 conference in Long Beach, California.
So today, the bow-tied, jauntily professorial Nye has a new role aside from his television work as a popularizer of science - as the society's chief executive, he's become a leading voice against the Obama administration's proposed $300 million cut in NASA's planetary exploration budget. And it's a subject about which he's passionate.
"This is a deep, deep concern. All the budgets are being cut. We gotcha, budgets are being cut, budgets are being pulled back, yes, yes, all good," he says, acknowledging the pressure to cut spending.
"But investment in space stimulates society, it stimulates it economically, it stimulates it intellectually and it gives us all passion. Everyone, red state, blue state, everyone supports space exploration. So I understand the budget has got to be cut, but something has gone a little bit wrong."FULL STORY