Contact: Gia Scafidi (818) 354-0372

From teachers to graduate students and homemakers to
veterinarians, hundreds of space aficionados have been selected
to share their love of space exploration with the public.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has
chosen the first group of Solar System Ambassadors for the new
millennium, 203 volunteers representing 48 states.

“The program is a great way to reach people in areas that
JPL just doesn’t normally get to,” said JPL’s Kay Ferrari,
program coordinator. “The ambassadors are wonderfully
enthusiastic people and an important interface between the space
exploration community and the public.”

Last year alone, 145 Solar System Ambassadors, representing
45 states, personally shared space information with more than
500,000 people.

Once selected, ambassadors receive orientation training and
lessons on various space missions, such as Galileo, currently
orbiting Jupiter, Cassini, sent to observe Saturn, and Stardust,
which will return with interstellar dust and material from a
comet tail in 2006. The volunteers also participate in monthly
Internet chats and teleconferences with JPL scientists and
engineers on the projects.

“I can still remember the fourth grade teacher who got me
interested in astronomy. Now I can’t get away from it,” said
Randall Rubis, 46, an amateur astronomer and astronomy club
member from Saint Clair Shores, Mich. “There are so many people
today who never look up to see how beautiful our universe is. I
want to bring that to light.”

Equipped with new knowledge and “care packages” filled with
color slides, brochures, posters, videos, bookmarks and stickers,
ambassadors commit to arranging at least four public outreach
efforts throughout the year. Projects range from museum and
library lectures to theater and musical productions and
planetarium shows.

“I think this is a great way to spread knowledge and
enthusiasm about space,” said Christine Davis, parent and foster
parent from Barrow, Alaska, the northern-most civilized point in
North America on the Arctic Ocean. “I hope that I can inspire
kids to look to space as the new frontier.”

“I want to expand information to the public schools,” added
Lee Hines, planetarium director from Roswell, N.M. “But not only
to the elementary school children. I want to expose their
parents to it, as well.” As an ambassador, Hines, a fan of space
for more than 30 years, plans to conduct planetarium shows and
observation sessions in his hometown.

More than 100 of this year’s ambassadors are returning
volunteers from last year.

JPL’s Solar System Ambassador program, open to anyone who is
interested in space and active in the community, grew out of the
smaller Galileo Ambassador Program, created in 1997. Throughout
the years, the program goal has focused on utilizing the gusto of
space enthusiasts from all walks of life to spread the word to
the public about space exploration.

More information on JPL’s Solar System Ambassador program is
available at

JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena.