The countdown has begun: In a little more than a year, the Tri-State will celebrate just over three minutes in the path of totality of a solar eclipse. While helping plan Evansville’s festivities, imagine our delight in meeting Mandy Scurry, a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador living in Newburgh, Indiana.
The southern Indiana Solar System Ambassadors team — which includes West Sider Gary Barr and Jasper, Indiana, resident Anthony Bryan — brainstorms, coordinates, and carries out educational activities and engaging events to bring the public closer to space. Leading up to the 2024 eclipse over Evansville, we talked with Mandy about what it’s like reaching for the stars.
Evansville Living: When did you know you wanted to work on behalf of the solar system
Mandy Scurry: When I was 12, my mom found a camp in Hutchinson, Kansas, called Future Astronaut Training Camp. I absolutely loved it. I went to a lot of camps, but by far that was my favorite camp. I went back the next year, and I was a camp counselor one summer after my first year of college. Through 4-H, I did a long weekend version of Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, a few years later. It was never actually in the cards for me to work for NASA, so when this opportunity came up, I was like, “finally, I will be able to do the ultimate goal.”
EL: How did you become a Solar System Ambassador for NASA?
MS: I had been doing these types of programs for fun in classrooms and at the library, so I applied in 2018 and was accepted right around the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019. I fell into youth programming because I already was an active Girl Scout volunteer.
EL: What is your favorite part of being an ambassador?
MS: I love reaching out and partnering with other groups in the community. It’s fulfilling and gives me an opportunity to reach audiences I wouldn’t. And I love students’ creativity during our projects. Every time, a kid surprises me with something new.
Learn more about the Tri-State’s role in the April 8, 2024, Great American Eclipse at visitevansville.com/eclipse
COOL CONSTELLATION solarsystem.nasa.gov/solar-system-ambassadors