"I found out about the solar system ambassador program when I was at a science-fiction convention a couple of years ago. There was a solar system ambassador giving a presentation in the space and science tract. She was doing a very similar presentation to one I had done already with third-grade and fourth-grade students at this school. After the session I asked her how to become a solar system ambassador and she gave me the website and that's when I decided I was going to go for it. In December of last year, they let me know that I had been chosen. I think there are about 500 in the country and we're required to make at least three presentations every year.
"When I was a little girl, my father bought us a telescope and he took us outside. It was very low-powered so you really couldn't see that much, except the craters on the moon, and that was awesome. That's how I became interested in space and space exploration. Although I didn't follow a career in that, I've always been fascinated by space exploration, particularly Mars. That's my thing, the exploration of Mars. When the Mars rovers landed two years ago, it was such a spectacular success for NASA. I was just enthralled with the whole idea. Those rovers were only supposed to last for three months. Two and a half years later, they are still going and are still sending back data and pictures that the scientists are still getting information from.
"There's also a really neat program called Signatures in Space that I just incorporated with Space Week at our school. Any school can apply to be a Space Day school. This is what will happen: they send us a poster, I have every student and teacher in the school, plus the governor and the mayor, sign the poster, and NASA will fly that aboard one of the next shuttles that go up and return it to us when they bring it back down.
"One thing I tell the kids is that I know they are not going to land men on Mars in my lifetime, or in time for me to go to Mars anyway, but that they might be one of the people who actually walk on Mars, and if they are, I want them, the minute they step foot on Mars, to think of me." —as told to Kelly Smith