Today, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a long time member of the Planetary Society's Board, serves currently as CEO. The Planetary Society began the Gene Shoemaker NEO grant program in 1997 and it was named for pioneering planetary geologist Gene Shoemaker, whose lifetime of discoveries have significantly helped scientists to understand the process by which asteroids impact planets, and the nature of the NEO population. Funding for the Shoemaker NEO awards is provided through generous contributions of The Planetary Society members and supporters and to date more than $270,000 has been provided.