- At the age of 14, won a scholarship from the Explorers Club for a cruise on the S.S. Canberra to Mauritania to see a solar eclipse.
- Was the captain of the wrestling team and editor of the physical science journal at his high school.
- As a senior in high school, was invited by Carl Sagan to visit him at Cornell University.
- In 1996, became the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York.
- In 1997, founded the Astrophysics Department at the American Museum of Natural History.
- Served as a presidential adviser when appointed by George W. Bush to a commission on the future of the aerospace industry in 2001.
- In 2004, published a memoir, The Sky Is Not the Limit.
- Was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2007.
- Is an avid collector of writing instruments.