upgrade
Astrodigital Banner

The NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador Public Speaker Program in Chicago

by Jim Plaxco
Last Updated December 9, 2006


Table of Contents

Introduction

I began serving as a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador in January 2001 and have made numerous presentations on planetary science, planetary missions, and space exploration in the Chicago area. In my role of ambassador, I am available to speak to your organization or group on a variety of topics that pertain to the exploration of space. Hopefully, the information on this page will answer most, if not all, your questions about this program.


What is a Solar System Ambassador?

A Solar System Ambassador (SSA) is someone who has been selected to participate in the Solar System Ambassador program. This program is sponsored by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The Solar System Ambassador program is "a public outreach program designed to work with motivated volunteers across the nation. Volunteers are asked to organize and conduct public events that communicate exciting discoveries and plans for exploration in Solar System research and technology through non-traditional forums."

The first full year of operation for the program was 2000. That year, 145 Ambassadors in 45 states made approximately 600 public presentations. For 2001, there were 202 Ambassadors in 48 states. The idea for the program came about as a result of the successes of the Galileo Ambassador Program, which was created in 1997.


NASA Missions Supported by the SSA Program

As a part of the program, SSAs are expected to be familiar with and able to speak about those JPL projects that are participating in the SSA program. Some of the NASA JPL missions that have been formally a part of the SSA program are:

Also included is the Deep Space Network, which is the facility used by the various missions for spacecraft communications.


Upcoming Public Presentations

For information about upcoming presentations, visit ArtsNova Blog. This is where I post information about my upcoming public presentations. Generally these programs are free.


Prepared Presentations

There are a number of prepared presentations that I can deliver to your organization. The list that immediately follows are current presentations that can be provided on short notice. These presentations are all computer based and last up to one hour.

Current Prepared Presentations
Imaging Mars
An introduction to the image processing associated with Mars mission data and an exploration of Martian geology using imagery from the Viking and Mars Global Surveyor missions to Mars.
Mars Science As Art Using Subjective Image Processing
The combination of NASA mission data archives being made available via the Internet, readily available image processing software, and powerful home computers has made it possible for individuals to access and process Mars robotic mission imaging data on their own. Discover how it's done.
Mars As Art
A presentation about image processing of Mars mission data with examples and explanation of representative geologic features of Mars.
Behold Mars
A 45 minute presentation exploring Martian geology using images from various missions, along with a discussion of the image processing used to create the images.
The Universe According to Monty Python
An in depth analysis of the planetary, astronomical, and cosmological statements made in the Monty Python song "The Galaxy Song"
Moon Fuel for a Hungry Earth
A look at mining lunar helium-3 as a source of fuel for fusion reactors.
Powering Earth: Space and the Future of Energy
As Earth's energy consumption increases, scientists work to find new energy sources to power our planet. This presentation investigates the feasibility of space-based solutions to Earth's energy shortage including satellites that collect solar power and mines on the Moon. The program will examine and evaluate three scientists' blueprints for harnessing space resources to meet our growing demand for clean fuel.
Solar Power from Space for Earth
A presentation detailing the idea of using a system of space-based Solar Power Satellites to meet the large increases in energy demand resulting from increasing world population and per capita energy consumption. Also discussed is the feasibility of mining the Moon for the necessary construction materials. A variety of architecture scenarios are explored. The presentation focuses on the ideas of Dr. Peter Glaser (the SPS concept), Dr. Gerard O'Neil (space manufacturing), and Dr. David Criswell (Lunar Solar Power)
Gemini - Stepping Stone to the Moon
An overview of the Gemini space program and the events preceding it. Discover how Gemini made the Apollo missions to the Moon possible. Learn about the technology, politics and people behind these daring journeys into space.


Following is the complete list of prepared presentations, past and present, that can be delivered to your group generally on 3-4 weeks notice, depending on the specific talk, my schedule and other commitments. The list is divided into three categories. The first category covers presentations that deal with Mars, both from a geological perspective as well as a human exploration perspective. The second covers presentations about planetary science in general, the Solar System, and astronomy or astronomical topics. The third category deals with the history of space exploration as well as the future of space development.



The Exploration of Mars:
Prepared Presentations Available as of December 2006

Program TitleLengthFormatAudienceDescription
Mars Science As Art Using Subjective Image Processing60 minutesComputerAdultThe availability of NASA Mars mission data archives on the Internet and the availability of image processing software on home computers means that we can all be armchair explorers of Mars. This presentation explains how it's done.
Mars As Art35-60 minutes35mm SlidesGeneralA look at how image processing is used to process Mars Global Surveyor images and how further digital manipulation can produce Mars-derived digital art.
Behold Mars30 - 60 minutesComputerAdultA 45 minute presentation exploring Martian geology using images from various missions, along with a discussion of the image processing used to create the images.
Missions to Mars45 minutes35mm SlidesGeneralA presentation about various missions to Mars, both real, planned, and imagined.
Why Explore Mars30 minutes35mm SlidesGeneralAn analysis of why it is important for humanity to explore the planet Mars.
The Martian Future1 Hour35mm SlidesGeneralAn overview of past exploration Mars, what we know about Mars, and what it will take to send a human mission to Mars.
Life on Mars30 minutes35mm SlidesGeneralAn overview of the evidence and possibility that life existed on Mars.
Mars Oddities - Mars Odyssey1 Hour35mm SlidesGeneralA look at the images and data returned by the Mars Global Surveyor mission and an overview of the Mars Odyssey mission.
Intelligent Travellers Guide to Mars1 HourOverheadsAdultA program that explains the naming of features on Mars and their geophysical classification.
Imaging Mars30 - 60 minutesComputerAdultAn introduction to image processing techniques used to process image data returned by the various Mars missions with emphasis on the Mars Global Surveyor.


Planetary Science, the Solar System, and Astronomy
Prepared Presentations Available as of December 2006

Program TitleLengthFormatAudienceDescription
The Universe According to Monty Python1 hourComputerGeneralAn analysis of the planetary, astronomical, and cosmological statements made by Monty Python in their song "The Galaxy Song"
The Solar System in 3D40 minutesComputerChildrenA tour of the Solar System including the Sun, planets, comets, and asteroids. Pictures used are 3D anaglyphs with the audience being required to wear red/blue glasses in order to see the 3D effect.
Our Solar System1 Hour35mm SlidesGeneralA general introduction to the solar system.
Hubble Space Telescope Views the Universe45 minutes35mm SlidesGeneralA look at nebula, supernovas, galaxies and more as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.
The NEAR Mission to Eros45 minutesOverheads and 35mm SlidesGeneralAn overview of the NEAR Shoemaker mission to the asteroid Eros and the resulting discoveries.


Space Exploration and Development:
Prepared Presentations Available as of December 2006

Program TitleLengthFormatAudienceDescription
The Future of Space Exploration45-90 minutes35mm SlidesGeneralAn examination of the "New Vision for Space Exploration" including Shuttle return to flight, ISS, and future human space exploration missions.
Moon Fuel for a Hungry Earth60 minutesComputerAdultA look at nuclear fusion as a source of energy and the mining of lunar helium-3 as a fuel for fusion reactors.
Powering Earth: Space and the Future of Energy60 minutesComputerAdultAs Earth's energy consumption increases, scientists work to find new energy sources to power our planet. This presentation investigates the feasibility of space-based solutions to Earth's energy shortage including satellites that collect solar power and mines on the Moon. The program will examine and evaluate three scientists' blueprints for harnessing space resources to meet our growing demand for clean fuel.
Solar Power from Space for Earth60 minutesComputerAdultA presentation exploring the concept of using space-based Solar Power Satellites to meet the world's growing energy demands in an environmentally friendly way. The use of lunar resources for constructing the SPS system is discussed as are a variety of system architecture scenarios. Emphasis is on the ideas of Dr. Peter Glaser's Solar Power Satellite concept, Dr. Gerard O'Neil's lunar mining and space manufacturing concepts, and Dr. David Criswell Lunar Solar Power concept.
Gemini - Stepping Stone to the Moon60 minutesComputerGeneralAn overview of the Gemini space program and its place in the history of space exploration.
The International Space Station45 minutes35mm SlidesGeneralA general introduction to the International Space Station.
The Apollo Legacy35 minutes35mm SlidesGeneralAn overview of the Apollo missions to the Moon.
The Space Frontier40 minutes35mm SlidesGeneral
Children
A general introduction to humans in space.

Customized Presentations

If your group or organization would like a presentation on a topic not listed in the Prepared Presentations section above, please contact me. Be forewarned that depending on the nature of the program you are requesting, and other speaking requests already in queue, it may be 4-8 weeks before I will be able to speak to your group.

Please note that I am not the only SSA in Illinois so you may want to consider contacting another SSA.


Past Talks, Presentations, and Lectures

For reference purposes, I have made a history of my past presentations about astronomy, space exploration and planetary science available at Past Talks.


Additional Information

If you want to learn the identity of the other SSAs from Illinois, then proceed to the JPL Ambassadors for Illinois page.

If you want to learn more about the NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador program then visit the JPL Ambassador Program Home Page

Need someone to talk about space to your group? Check out the Chicago Society for Space Studies Speakers Bureau

For space art, astronomy, and digital photography stories, visit the Artsnova Blog

Copyright 1999-2007, Astrodigital, http://www.astrodigital.org. All rights reserved.
To ask questions, report problems or for general inquiries, see Contact