NASA’s Solar System Ambassadors Program – Don’t Miss Out on this Great Resource for Earth and Space Events and More with Visitors!

Christina Leavell
Solar System Ambassadors

Here at the Science Museum of Minnesota, we just can’t stop talking about how successful our relationship has been with the Solar System Ambassadors program! If you haven’t heard of this program, it’s a public engagement program that works with motivated volunteers across the nation to communicate the excitement of NASA's space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries to people in their local communities. Ambassadors are space enthusiasts from various walks of life who are interested in providing greater service and inspiration to the community at large. In other words, these are incredibly knowledgeable people, most with their own resources to share, who are just waiting for an invitation to come to your events and engage with the public around Earth and space science!

Michael Ward & Cristin Finnigan, Solar System Ambassadors Program; Photo credit: Science Museum of Minnesota for the NISE Network

In early 2017, as we prepared for our upcoming Explore Science: Earth and Space event, we explored the Solar System Ambassadors Program website to search for Ambassadors in our area. Doing this was so easy:  you start by searching the “Directory” by state and their interactive map allowed us to easily identify Ambassadors in and around the Twin Cities. We were surprised to find a number of program participants dotting our Midwestern map. From there all we needed to do is click any given dot on the map for a full biography of the Ambassador, including information such as past and upcoming events hosted by the Ambassador, as well as a link to contact the person directly.

Christopher Mick (far right) & David Goldstein (center), Solar System Ambassadors Program; Photo credit: Science Museum of Minnesota for the NISE Network

Now in many cases one may wonder just how “up-to-date” such a database could be. With so many participants, how could all these contacts still be current? For example, our now good friend David Goldstein had a biography note saying “Member since 2002.” That’s fifteen years ago! Perhaps this individual no longer even recalled signing up to assist with this program. NOT the case! We received an almost immediate response from Goldstein, who was available and enthusiastic to assist with our museum’s Earth and Space event.

Much to our delight, almost every Ambassador we contacted promptly responded. Although many were unable to join us for our Explore Science: Earth & Space event, we were able to secure four Ambassadors for our museum event (lesson learned: start connecting early because Ambassadors keep busy). These four Ambassadors were fabulous, but if you’re too far away from their home base to connect, just search the program’s Directory to find your own fab four:

David Goldstein - https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/ssa/biography.cfm?US_ID=277

Christopher Mick - https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/ssa/biography.cfm?US_ID=1496

Cristin Finnigan - https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/ssa/biography.cfm?US_ID=1179

Michael Ward - https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/ssa/biography.cfm?US_ID=1204

Michael Ward, Solar System Ambassadors Program; Photo credit: Science Museum of Minnesota for the NISE Network

So what’s so fab about these four Ambassadors? From the moment they arrived at the museum they were prompt, professional, and prepared. The fact that this program trains these individuals to do this type of public outreach work could not be more obvious. Three of our four came armed with their own educational materials. The one who did not told us from the start that he wanted to do one of our toolkit activities, specifically the hands-on activity Exploring the Universe: Orbiting Objects. In training and on our floor that day, our regular museum staff and volunteers came to look to these four as teachers and mentors around Earth and space science content.

With their contributions, we not only hosted the Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit activities for our event, but we also had a working model rover, rocket models on straws that got launched, and the blue jumpsuit that is so distinguishable with NASA astronauts.

David Goldstein, Solar System Ambassadors Program; Photo credit: Science Museum of Minnesota for the NISE Network

This year the Solar System Ambassadors program celebrates its 20th anniversary! Currently, there are 730 Ambassadors in 50 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Guam. If you have not already, please check out https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/ssa/home.cfm and locate an Ambassador(s) for your next Earth and Space event! We already have the four Ambassadors from our Spring 2017 event returning August 21, 2017 for our Solar Eclipse event, and we look forward to many more collaborations to come.


More resources for finding astronomy volunteers:

Solar System Ambassadors Program, Night Sky Network, and Astronomy Ambassadors

http://www.nisenet.org/catalog/finding-astronomy-volunteers


To learn more about the Science Museum of Minnesota’s collaboration with Solar System Ambassadors, please contact Christina Leavell at cleavell@smm.org