March 23, 2005
Space enthusiasts have joined together for an eighth year as part of NASA's Solar System Ambassadors Program, a volunteer- based group whose mission is to educate the public about the wonders of space exploration.
Ambassadors are everyday citizens with an interest in space science and the solar system. With 459 ambassadors coming from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the program has a wide variety.
"The diversity in this year's applicants is particularly striking," said Kay Ferrari, coordinator of the program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "While the Solar System Ambassador program has long been the haven for space enthusiasts from all walks of life, it is particularly inspiring to see the range of fields represented: firefighter, high school senior, retired Wall Street analyst, Navy medic and attorney."
The Solar System Ambassador program was created in 1997. The ambassadors' main objective is to spread knowledge of the solar system by organizing community events and visiting schools.
To prepare, ambassadors participate in a series of online training courses provided by JPL. Educational materials are supplied by the space missions.
Ambassador Susan Cabello of Laredo Texas, a mother of two boys, has a special interest in educating the young and a passion for space.
"I want to reach all children," said Cabello, who has an associate's degree in criminology and plans to hold her next event for Earth-Sun Day at Laredo Community College. "Middle school is a place to attempt to reach children first. I believe that if you can give kids at that age a dream to work for, they can achieve it. I also want to visit high schools and tell kids to study the tough classes for their career and personal satisfaction."
Navy medic Oteasha Leonard, who is stationed in San Diego, has similar aspirations. Her first event is the Military Kids Space Day in San Diego.
"No child should be left out when it comes to education," said Leonard, who once attended a school for Aerospace Medicine Technology. "Maybe one of the children I reach out to will become an astronaut, astronomer or scientist. I want to give them a head start at the opportunity."
Lisa Olsen, a developmental training supervisor from Amboy, Ill., says space captured her attention at a young age, and she now has the ability to put that interest to good use.
"I would like to reach the people who have always had an interest in astronomy and space exploration, but have been too busy, insecure, or just have not had the opportunity to explore the amazing events. I would also hope to get more people, women in particular, excited about the field of science and technology."
For more information on JPL's Solar System Ambassador program, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/front.html , or contact Kay Ferrari at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 354-7581. A calendar of events hosted by ambassadors is available at http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/events.html.
JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.
Annie Carone (818) 393-5464
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.