Kirby Daniel Runyon, PhD
Scientist, Space Explorer, Christian Thinker

About Me


As a planetary geologist, I study the surface geology of planets, moons, and small worlds throughout the Solar System using data (mostly images) from robotic spacecraft.

Space Explorer

I contribute to the science teams of various robotic NASA spacecraft, including Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, New Horizons, and the upcoming Mars2020 Rover.

I'm fascinated with human spaceflight, too. Suborbital human spaceflight will soon be commonplace with the providers Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. In the 2020s, NASA astronauts will hopefully go back to the Moon for the first time since 1972.

Christian Thinker

I believe one way to know God is to know the natural world. For me, that's through space exploration. I hold to and practice orthodox Christianity in a scientifically literate context. As such, I am not a Creationist in the usual sense of the word but rather hold to theistic evolution as my "theology of science."

Curriculum Vitae

About me, from a nerdy, professional perspective. (*shoves glasses up nose*)

Public Speaking

Carl Sagan was correct when he said, "When you're in love, you want to tell the world!" That's how I feel about space. 

My favorite thing to do is to speak to interested non-scientists about the incredible riches of space exploration and the scientific discoveries space scientists make all the time. The pictures we have from around the Solar System certainly inspire awe in me and I love sharing my awe with others. 

I also love showing people the harmony between science and Christian faith—they're not in conflict with each other—and our understanding of one enhances our appreciation for the other.  Videos of some of my speaking engagements are over at my YouTube channel, nasaman58.

The Planet Definition Debate

Pluto is a planet, and so are many other round worlds in our Solar System, including round moons! There are so many you probably can't memorize them all, but don't worry--learn a few examples of each type of planet and start to get a taste for the vast diversity of planets in just our Solar System. Then, let your mind get blown about all the other extrasolar planetary systems in our galaxy and beyond!

See my article in Astronomy Magazine here.

Here is my (and other's) two-page abstract at the 2017 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference that rekindled this whole planet debate. And, here is our e-poster.

CBC Radio in Canada interviewed me, too!

In the News (selected)

An organically grown planet definition

An article I wrote with Dr. Alan Stern in Astronomy Magazine.

About Mars

Journalist David Brown interviewed me about Mars at Mental Floss.

Washington Post Interview

My interview with the Washington Post about the geophysical planet definition.

Titan Talk (and the Moon and Pluto)

My interview with Athena "AstroAthens" on her YouTube channel.