What They’re Reading: NASA Solar System Ambassador Axel Diaz
Axel Diaz was eight years old and was working on a report about the Apollo moon landing when he went to his local library for books about the event.
“I remember that I came home and saw the pictures of the moon landing and the spacecraft and the people who went to the moon,’’ Diaz says. “That started my passion for space and NASA.’’
Today, the Lancaster resident is a NASA Solar System Ambassador, a select group of volunteers who speak at schools and organizations about the agency’s latest projects and space exploration in general.
The current hot topic is the planned December 18 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. Recently, The Library was one of only 60 libraries nationwide to receive a NASA @ My Library grant to provide educational programming. As part of the grant, Diaz will present “Learn about the James Webb Space Telescope” for The Library on Wednesday, December 8 at 6:30 pm.
Diaz, who works as a production supervisor and is going back to school for a degree in mechanical engineering, says he hopes the Webb telescope will spark an interest in science and space among students the way the Apollo landing did for him. With the holidays coming up, he noted that a gift for budding explorers could be a telescope or even a pair of powerful binoculars to scan the heavens.
“I always encourage people to keep looking up,’’ he says. “You can look at the universe and see how small we are; that helps us to stay humble.’’
What are you reading? Most of the books I read are about space because that is my passion. I’m also a photographer. I’m currently reading Astronomy: A Visual Guide by DK. It’s an amazing book that explains the science of astronomy, which is one of the oldest studies.
What are some good space and science books for kids? The first one that comes to mind is Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. The movie by the same name is great as well. It really shows in detail what NASA went through in the 1960s. I also recommend: Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA by Amy Shira Teitel; Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky; and Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt.
How important are libraries to budding explorers? My visit to the library when I was eight opened my mind to space and science. Libraries are a great resource that are available to everyone. I encourage parents to go to their library with their children and visit the science section and let your kids choose a book. It’s a great way to interest them in science.