On the morning of this year's Space Day, May 2, David Sheppard of Carlsbad,
N.M., will drive about 30 miles north to set up a telescope for children and adults in
Artesia to safely observe dark spots on the Sun.
That evening, he'll head the other way, south 20 miles from Carlsbad, to aim a
telescope at Jupiter, Saturn and Mars for residents of the rural New Mexico village of
Sheppard and about 30 other volunteers in the Solar System Ambassadors Program
are planning public activities in communities from Seattle to Puerto Rico for Space Day.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., coordinates the ambassadors program
to serve widespread public interest about the discoveries and drama of robotic missions
throughout the solar system.
"I really enjoy sharing information about space with other people," said Sheppard, a
retired aerospace engineer. "We don't have the kinds of museums and other resources that
big cities have. It's important to me that kids, even in these small communities, know that
they can be involved personally in space exploration if they have the enthusiasm and drive
to stick with it."
More than 75 partner organizations, including NASA, support Space Day on the
first Thursday in May to promote science, math and technology education.
Angel Sanabria, a solar system ambassador and former teacher, is planning a
special Space Day program for more than 100 high school students in Sabana Grande,
Puerto Rico. He will present images from such JPL-managed missions as the Galileo
mission to Jupiter.
"The more we know about our surroundings in the solar system, the better we
understand our mother ship, Earth," Sanabria said.
Like the other 277 volunteer ambassadors, Sanabria has committed to organizing
and carrying out at least four public outreach activities during the year. JPL provides them
with educational materials and training sessions, including contacts with mission scientists,
said JPL's Kay Ferrari, program coordinator.
"The main reward for me is to see the students get close to the edges of their seats
and see their faces light up," Sanabria said.
Some of the ambassadors' events in connection with Space Day will actually
happen a few days before or after May 2. Carol Lutsinger, in Brownsville, Texas, for
example, has helped organize a May 4 program, targeted for middle-school students, at the
temporary shopping-mall site of a new children's museum for her community. Youngsters
who come to the Saturday event will make simulated comets and learn about NASA's
Stardust mission, currently on its way to fetch material from a comet and bring it to Earth.
They will also design posters and enact short dramas about the life cycle of stars.
Gary Sprague, a new ambassador this year, will collaborate with the Southern
Oregon Skywatchers to set up Sun-observing telescopes May 11 on a lawn area beside a
Medford, Ore., department store.
Atholton Elementary School in Columbia, Md., where Solar System Ambassador
Mellie Lewis teaches, will hold its Space Day celebration on April 29. Fifth-grade students
will give presentations to students in other grades about solar system topics that involve
U.S. Air Force retiree Norm Black, the JPL program's ambassador in Colorado
Springs, Colo., will bring to students at Trailblazer Elementary School a program of
balloon rockets, "pop rockets" and information about Mars missions. The pop-rocket
activity, described online at
uses fizzing antacid
tablets to propel a small rocket built from a film canister.
More information about the Solar System Ambassadors Program is available at
For more about Space Day, see
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in