MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Guy Webster, (818) 354-6278
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2000
MORE 'AMBASSADORS' SOUGHT FOR TELLING SOLAR SYSTEM STORY
They come from all walks of life to spread the word.
Robert Gass, an accountant, organized an outdoor meteor-
watching event in Florida where hundreds of people learned both
about NASA's current space-exploration missions and about
Seminole Indian star lore.
Sally Jensen, a fifth-grade teacher in New Hampshire,
prepared a series of public programs about spacecraft to Jupiter,
Mars and other parts of the solar system, and presented them in
the planetarium of her local Plymouth State College.
Earl Towson, a retired engineer, helped more than 200 Boy
Scout summer campers in California earn merit badges in astronomy
and space exploration.
Michelle Baker, a corporate marketing executive in New
Jersey, taught families about robots in space during a "Super
Science" weekend at Trenton State Museum.
Those are a sampling of activities during the past 12 months
by 144 NASA Solar System Ambassadors in 45 states.
Beginning today, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in
Pasadena, Calif., is seeking applications for people to become
Solar System Ambassadors in 2001.
"They're in it because they're excited about space
exploration," said JPL's Kay Ferrari, coordinator of the program.
"This gives us the opportunity to piggyback on their enthusiasm
and it gives them some extra credibility for going out into their
JPL helps the ambassadors learn about missions such as
Galileo, to Jupiter; Cassini, to Saturn; and Stardust, to bring
home sample particles from a comet's tail. The ambassadors
participate in teleconferences and Internet chats directly with
scientists and engineers working on the missions. They also
receive materials such as brochures, posters and color slides to
help them excite other people about the wonders of the solar
The ambassadors commit to arranging at least four public
outreach projects during the year. Projects range from library
talks to original theater productions. Last year, the events
directly reached about 400,000 people.
Like most of other ambassadors, Gass, of Fort Lauderdale,
Fla., was an astronomy buff who enjoyed sharing his enthusiasm
even before learning about this program.
"I had been looking for new ways to reach people," Gass
said. "Before, people said, 'Who is this guy? He's an
accountant.' Now, the affiliation with JPL helps. I talk with the
mission scientists. I've had training sessions." As a JPL Solar
System Ambassador, he has convinced movie-theater managers to let
him present real information about planetary exploration outside
showings of space science-fiction films.
"A lot of people seem to have a general interest, but they
don't know much about what projects are going on now, what's
being accomplished," Gass said. "You give them some information.
You see their eyes light up."
Jensen, of Plymouth, N.H., said she likes the networking
with other ambassadors to share ideas about outreach projects.
Towson, of La Mesa, Calif., has helped Boy Scouts learn
about astronomy for years. Joining the ambassador program has
helped him do it better by keeping him up-to-date about current
space exploration projects, he said.
Baker, of Princeton, N.J., enjoys sharing excitement about
solar system exploration with adults who might otherwise not pay
it much attention.
"Kids seem to have a natural interest in it, but it's good
to reach adults and see them get excited about it again, too,"
The Solar System Ambassadors program began last year, as an
expansion from earlier outreach projects linked to individual
NASA missions. Ferrari hopes to expand it to 200 ambassadors in
all 50 states next year.
Applications will be accepted until Sept. 30. Forms and
information are available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador ,
or by calling (818) 354-7581.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Current Solar System Ambassadors in 45 states
are listed at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/usstates.html.
Guy Webster, at (818) 354-6278, can help you contact them.