Growing up in Southern Illinois, Lindsey Gilmore was convinced that an adorable alien was in her future, and she was ready to make it feel welcome. E.T. never showed, but Gilmore, who moved to Kentucky 11 years ago, employs her affinity for hospitality as Bellarmine’s assistant director of Housing and Residence Life, a position she has held for the past three years. “My job is to help provide a premier living/learning experience for students in the residence halls through the live-in paraprofessional staff (resident assistants, academic peer advocates and community educators) and the Residence Life coordinators,” master’s level professionals who live in the halls, she says. She has also maintained a lifelong interest in space, and earlier this year, NASA selected her as one of its Solar System Ambassadors, a volunteer position managed by the Jet Propulsion Lab. We blasted off some questions to Gilmore about her heady hobby, and she responded in 3…2…1….
How did you get interested in space exploration?
Science and space exploration has always been something that I was passionate about. I asked for a telescope when I was a young girl and fell in love with the expansiveness of space. It wasn’t necessarily anything I ever really wanted to study as a career, but just a fun interest and passion I had.
What is your favorite movie about space?
I’m a Star Wars junkie at heart. I dressed up as Luke Skywalker for Halloween when I was in junior high. As a little girl, I was obsessed with the 1982 movie E.T. I was convinced my very own E.T. would make his way to my house. But I really enjoy any movie, TV show or documentary that deals with space.
What exactly is the NASA Solar System Ambassador Program, and how did you get involved with it?
The Solar System Ambassador (SSA) program exists to help educate the community on anything that NASA is currently working on, any space exploration missions, or any general solar system science. When the eclipse was happening this past year I was on NASA’s website and saw that the application for new ambassadors was opening up soon, so I thought, “Why not; the worst they can say is no!”
So when aliens land and say, “Take me to your leader,” are you the one they are taken to?
Ha ha! If only!
But seriously, what do ambassadors do?
The activities that SSA facilitate vary significantly. The activities can be for children or general community members. Sometimes they are held at libraries, schools and even planetariums. Currently I am working on connecting with other Louisville-based SSAs to see what events are being planned and others we may be able to plan.
What are some of the most exciting current or planned NASA missions?
There are so many current NASA missions that can be checked out on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website: jpl.nasa.gov. There is everything from space telescopes looking for asteroids and comets that could pose a threat to Earth, to the Mars Rover, to climate experimentation and soil moisture monitoring. When we hear about space missions, we think about astronauts and Apollo-type missions, but NASA and JPL do so much more than that. I think the missions in which the scientists are examining climate and the Earth’s soil are fascinating and important to our planet, but they go unnoticed by the general public. Juno is a mission that I find intriguing, as it entered Jupiter’s orbit in the summer of 2016 in order to begin to answer questions about this gaseous planet and maybe even as to how our solar system developed. Juno has been observing Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields to help gather this information and should de-orbit this summer.
If you had the chance to travel in space—say, on the Mars One crew—would you go?
Of course! I feel like that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I could not pass up! Imagine all the amazing experiences and the ability to give back to science.
By Carla Carlton | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Jessica Ebelhar