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The Webfooted Astronomer - January 2001


From the President's Pen . . . She Even Worked for NASA—Sort Of . . .

By Mary Ingersoll

THOUGH my verbal abilities have been compared to that of George W. Bush (slipping up on "slyabols"), no one has been able to compare my writings to anyone of any note.

I dare say that would imply that as a wordsmith I am in a league of my own. Therefore, I beg your forgiveness in advance for when I wreak havoc on the English language. Also I want to "thank you" to all of you who elected me to the position of president of the club. It's going to be great fun working with the rest of the board: Karl & Judy Schroeder, George Best, Ron Leamon, Greg Donohue, Brian Allen, Laurie Moloney, and Loren Bush.

To introduce myself, I have been involved with the SAS for the past 3½ years. After a few months as a member I became the Treasurer of the club, took a year off, and then was First VP Programs last year.

I have been married for 26½ years to Steve Ingersoll whose hobby is racing cars (improved touring), presently a Honda CRX. He has received so many awards I've suggested that the next time we re-roof the house we just use all the old plaques that are stacked up in the basement. We have three daughters: the eldest (Suzy) will graduate from college this spring, our middle daughter (Stephanie) is in high school and the youngest (Jennifer) is in junior high. To afford these three gems, my husband works for J&E Appraisers, and we own two small businesses.

As a child, one of the greatest influences on my life was the landing on the Moon. I, like most kids then, wanted to be an astronaut. However, NASA was not accepting applications from children and though women were accepted they weren't given much hope of travel beyond the office.

When I went to camp Waskowitz to enjoy the richness of the great outdoors, I spent my free time in the camp's library reading every astronomy book on the shelf (only three). My Dad was the one who taught me to slow down and look around. On summer days we'd lie in the grass and watch the clouds drift by. When we looked at the night sky, he would point out constellations that he gave his own names to. For many years I thought that the Big Dipper was the "Plow." (He grew up on a farm in the Ukraine.) Last year my Dad took me back to Germany for the total eclipse of the Sun.

Though I never got to actually go to the Moon, I did have the pleasure of "transporting" students there while I worked at the Museum of Flight's Challenger Learning Center. When Elizabeth and Dan Knight were sent to the South Pacific for the Peace Corps, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. She hired me and for three years I traveled in an imaginary spacecraft to the Moon, the International Space Station, and to Mars. I even had the great fun of reworking the Apollo Program for younger children. I finally satisfied my childhood fantasy for my wages were supplemented by a grant from NASA.

I retired from the Museum last year so I could spend more time with my Dad, as his health was degrading. He's doing a lot better now.

I enjoy spending time with kids. I've participated in sky parties for grade schools in the area, and have helped out at youth group summer programs with mini astronomy sessions. I've not run into very many kids who are not intrigued by astronomy and space travel. For that reason it surprises me that we have so few young people at any of our functions. I was told that we once had an active youth group, but it folded when it's leader retired. It seems that a lack of volunteers had prevented its continuation. I therefore would propose that the SAS start a new SIG, a youth group.

Also, I am interested in acquiring a program through JPL called Telescopes in Education (TIE), which would allow us to rent time on a telescope at the Mt. Wilson Observatory via the Internet and then download those digital images. (This program is presently being used by SAS member Paul Walsh with brain injured patients at the Delta Rehabilitation Facility for Severely Head-Injured, and was showcased on NASA Select TV in November.)

This would be an excellent outreach program that we could use at local schools, but also build a youth group around. Adult leaders would teach the young members to run the program and that would give them experience similar to methods used on the university level. For more information about TIE, visit their Web site at: We've also been approached by the UW Astronomy Dept. to participate with them when they start holding public viewing nights (using the planetarium and the balcony of the building) beginning this spring.

If these proposals are of interest to you, please feel free to contact me either by e-mail, telephone (206-246-0977), or USPS (P.O. Box 871, Seahurst, WA 98062). I look forward to a year of growth and fun.

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