September 11, 2003
With hopes to further expand the successful Solar System Ambassador program, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is recruiting more volunteers to be Solar System Ambassadors in 2004. Applications are being accepted through Sept. 30.
"Ideal candidates are ambitious people who are enthusiastic about space exploration and active in their communities," said Kay Ferrari, national coordinator for the Solar System Ambassador program based at JPL. "Solar System Ambassadors come from all walks of life and aren't necessarily from any particular field of study."
John Beasley, an air traffic controller and first-year ambassador from Miami, Fla., has held interactive and informative presentations on NASA programs at a local IMAX theater and several elementary schools.
"For a long time, I was looking for an avenue by which I could bring people NASA and show how its accomplishments in the manned and unmanned programs help those of us on Earth," Beasley said. "The Solar System Ambassador program provides that avenue."
"One of the most important things on my agenda is to educate people on the benefits we enjoy here on Earth due to the space program and therefore why we need to continue supporting the program," said ambassador Melodee Knopp, an educator and coordinator for the Mobile Space Station simulation at the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center, Greenbush, Kan.
JPL coordinates the Solar System Ambassadors Program, consisting of more than 294 volunteer ambassadors who have committed to organizing at least four public outreach activities a year. JPL provides them with educational materials and training sessions, including contacts with mission scientists.
"I've brought the solar system into the classroom and made students excited about learning science and technology," said Kathy Chock, a veteran ambassador and educator from Honolulu, Hawaii. Chock has exposed her students to exhibit boards, hands-on activities, discussion and video clips from missions such as Stardust, which aims to collect and return samples from a comet, and Galileo, which is orbiting Jupiter.
Gilberto Monarez, a Solar System Ambassador in El Paso, Texas, translates similar materials and activities into Spanish so his students can share in the excitement.
"I really enjoy the expressions the students give me after they realize that space is there for everybody," Monarez said. "You can even feel the excitement of their minds thinking of the planets and the universe moving. The kids get so excited they even pretend to be comets, planets or astronauts."
"One of my favorite things about being a Solar System Ambassador is talking to senior citizens," said Cindy Psick, a solar system ambassador from Washington who has hosted at least 12 events since last year on subjects involving amateur astronomy, Mars exploration and the Deep Space Network, ground-based antennas that communicate with spacecraft. "They've seen the space program from the beginning and can deeply appreciate what it took to get this far. They get so excited about the missions. It brings out the kid in them."
JPL ambassadors are based in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, serving widespread public interest about robotic missions throughout the solar system. Around 300 volunteers will serve as Solar System Ambassadors in 2004, Ferrari said.
"Being a Solar System Ambassador gives me a chance to accomplish something I could not otherwise do: tell people about their space program and their universe. No finer opportunity exists to accomplish this," said Greg Redfern, a Solar System Ambassador from Fairfax, Va., who is fascinated with space rocks. "I highly recommend being a Solar System Ambassador to anyone who wants to give his or her time on behalf of NASA, JPL and the public."
More information about the Solar System Ambassadors Program and how to apply is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador , or contact the coordinator, Kay Ferrari, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 354-7581. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.
Contact: Charli Schuler (818) 393-5467