Jaclyn Allen, 1950–2023

Jaclyn Allen

Planetary science education recently lost a pioneer and one of its finest members when Jaclyn Sue (Jackie) Bird Allen, 73, of Placitas, New Mexico, passed away peacefully on May 4, 2023.

In 1991, Allen and her husband, planetary geologist Dr. Carl Allen, came to NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) to pursue planetary research and science education, where they both remained until retiring in 2015. Allen was a force of nature! A geologist, planetary scientist, educator, wife, partner, mother, grandmother, and mentor, she was also a dear friend to so many in the planetary community. In addition to designing activities, conducting workshops, and creating curriculum, Allen excelled at bringing people together: scientists, educators, Girl Scouts, and students. She was an inspiration to so many in planetary science.

A scientist and educator, Allen touched many lives through her love of learning and of inspiring others to learn about everything from the rocks to the stars. She built platforms where others grew and contributed and realized their potential — a true master educator. When she stepped in as a volunteer at JSC to assist Dr. Marilyn Lindstrom develop education materials to accompany the newly minted meteorite discs, a marvelous, productive, and far-reaching journey began. Allen saw the need for scientists and classroom educators to work as colleagues, as a continuing team, to develop meaningful and useful science education. With her direction, writing teams at JSC wrote a number of lessons and activities, including “Exploring Meteorite Mysteries!,” “Fingerprints of Life?,” and “Destination Mars!” Her talents for bringing people together and creating good science education were shared in Mars Exploration Education, Discovery Mission Education, the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and the NASA Science Mission Directorate.

In 2002, her passions for science, education, and Girl Scouts came together as the planetary science education group looked for ways to reach new audiences through informal education. Funded by NASA, Girls Scouts USA chose and sent 25 volunteer master Girl Scout trainers to Macy Conference Center for a five-day workshop, Exploring the Solar System. This was the beginning of a 20-plus-year relationship between NASA and the Girl Scouts that continues today.

Allen had the gift of seeing potential and believing in people. And those who knew her had no choice but to believe and strive. May we all use our gifts and talents so well to lift up others.

— Text courtesy of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Kay Tobola, and the Albuquerque Journal