The Union Recorder

February 25, 2014

OUR SPACE: Look who's 10 years old

Beate Czogalla
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Look who’s 10 years old!

How long have you been reading the Our Space column?

What’s that? Since the beginning, you say?

Well, congratulations, gentle reader, because you’ve hung in there for 10 years! Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Our Space began in 2004 with the first column being published on Feb. 13. The topic was “A Day in the Life of a Martian Scientist”, and it was about our intrepid Mars explorers Spirit (R.I.P. li’l pal!) and Opportunity (way to go, buddy!). Since then we’ve explored all the planets in the Solar System — including Earth, because let’s not forget about all the Earth-observing and communications satellites we’ve visited, and there were shuttle missions and virtual handshakes with the International Space Station galore as well.

We’ve talked about technology and cutting edge science, from laser communications to ion propulsion, and the ever-popular reaction wheels. We have lamented the lack of funding for exciting new missions such as an outpost on the moon, and we’ve dreamed big about what might be possible soon, like bagging an asteroid and towing it back to Earth for study.

Together we’ve met singing astronauts, and scientists and engineers who are some of the greatest visionaries on our fair planet. We witnessed the sad ending of the space shuttle era and got last-minute reports of launches as they happened.

As the official Solar System Ambassador for your neck of the woods I have been fortunate to experience many of the topics first-hand, through direct meetings, site visits and special telephone conferences with the movers and shakers of America’s space program, and it’s always such a pleasure to share what I’ve learned with you.

But it’s always a special treat when you invite me to meetings of your community organizations, or into the classrooms of your children. Nothing beats good old-fashioned face-to-face time, and I’ve been able to visit so many of you, from kindergarten to Learning in Retirement groups. I’ve been to every school in Baldwin County, and many more beyond, and I’ve always been welcomed with grace and hospitality.

Yes, I love my job!

And while I rarely toot my own horn, I often get reader emails about how I got involved, so here’s a quick low-down: I freely admit I’ve been a closet astronaut since I watched the first lunar landing at age 5. I lived through the launch of the Voyager spacecraft and the nail-biter of Apollo 13. I grew up with the shuttle program, just like many of you. I mourned the deaths of the Challenger crew as if I’d known them personally, and I grieved for the astronauts on board of Columbia, many of whom I did actually know personally. And I wanted to be involved and do my share to keep the dream alive.

While living in Indiana I had started working with the Outreach Programs at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., doing countless teacher training sessions, and when I learned about the Solar System Ambassador Program out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, I knew I had found my calling. Being accepted into this very special program was extremely gratifying. And as I mused upon ways of reaching out to my new community right here in Milledgeville I came up with the idea of Our Space. I pitched it to the editor of The Union Recorder, and she agreed to make it a biweekly series. The rest, as they say, is history.

And there you have it.

My thanks go to the good folks at The Union Recorder, my supervisor at JPL Kay Ferrari, and of course all of you loyal readers. Let’s go for another 10 years!

Who’s with me?

Learn more about the Solar System Ambassador Program at

Beate Czogalla is the Professor of Theater Design in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Georgia College & State University. She has had a lifelong interest in space exploration and has been a Solar System Ambassador for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/ NASA for many years. She can be reached at