On February 18, 158 Solar System Ambassadors hosted 123 virtual watch parties to celebrate the Perseverance rover’s successful landing on the surface of Mars. 119 of the events were held in the United states and its territories. The Puerto Rico watch party was conducted in Spanish. Four landing events were held in countries outside the US targeting local audiences: Netherlands (in Dutch), Israel (in Hebrew), the United Kingdom and the US Naval Base in Rota, Spain. Due to ongoing power outages created by recent winter storms, a few of the events planned for Texas audiences had to be rescheduled. The most unusual landing event was hosted by SSAs Scott Nebeker and Emily Lehnardt of Utah. They used virtual reality to place participants on the surface of Mars so they could watch Perseverance touch down. 5069 people attended. A photo of the VR experience is attached to this report.
SSA Katherine Johnston joined Solar System Ambassadors in 2020 when the pandemic shutdown caused a decrease in outreach activity. Perseverance landing was the first mission milestone event she actively participated in. The experience gripped her so emotionally that she posted the following message on the private SSA Facebook page, "I just want to say how grateful I am for this group and the opportunity to be a SSA. What an incredible time we live in, to be able to share our passion and love for space exploration with people in our communities. A lot of happy tears were shed today. It’s probably weird to tell strangers on the Internet that you love them, but that’s truly how I feel about this group. I love that we, individuals from all walks of life, have the opportunity to connect like this."