Ambassador to the Solar System
By Leah Seupersad
A meteorite whizzing across the night sky is one of the first memories Ginny Mauldin-Kinney (B.I.S. '02) tells about how she fell in love with astronomy.
"I was sitting in my driveway and I saw a meteorite streaking the entire length of the sky from the west to the east and I was just in awe," Mauldin-Kinney said. "It opened up my world."
Mauldin-Kinney, who is back at GSU as a graduate student studying geology, has been volunteering as a NASA Solar System Ambassador for a decade. The Solar System Ambassadors Program is a public outreach program designed for volunteers to share their excitement for space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries with their local communities.
"I'm very passionate about space. To me, it really is the final frontier," Mauldin-Kinney said.
It's no surprise Mauldin-Kinney is interested in all things space-related. She was influenced by an uncle who worked as a NASA engineer with the Marshall Space Flight Center.
"I was fortunate enough to see Apollo 17 leave the earth when I was probably 5 or 6," she said. "I remember it being a night launch and I was sitting on top of my parents' Oldsmobile and waiting because it kept being delayed, but when it finally went off it lit up the night sky like a sunrise."
Mauldin-Kinney began delving deeper into astronomy and space exploration in 1995 when she took a continuing education astronomy course at Emory University. Afterward, she began volunteering her time as an observatory assistant at the Fernbank Science Center and serving as an officer with the Atlanta Astronomy Club from 1996 to 1998.
Those experiences led her to pursue a bachelor's at GSU, where she was able to devise an interdisciplinary studies curriculum in planetary science and communications. Her emphasis of study is "paleo-discharge estimates in former Martian valley networks."
"Mars used to be a much wetter planet than it is today," she explained. "I'm looking at the different methodologies that people have been using since the 1970s to measure what was the flow at the time when water was on the planet and I'm determining the best method for determining that flow."
As she studies, Mauldin-Kinney is constantly training through the ambassador program.
Mauldin-Kinney said her favorite events involve speaking to children. Her outreach activities have included everything from helping Girl Scout troops receive sky search badges to presentations at local schools and libraries.
"I like to inspire kids because if we can get just one child inspired out of a group of 50 then we're doing our jobs," she said. "One thing I tell them is that they should really focus on science and math early on because if you can do science and math you can do anything in the world."