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