One Girl Has Been Preparing Her Whole Life To Go To Mars, And She’s Younger Than You Think

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Shooting For The Stars

Alyssa Carson is preparing to be one of the first humans to ever step foot on Mars. With the help of NASA, she’s been training to live out this dream since she was a young girl, but at the rate she’s going, she’s set to become one of the youngest astronauts ever. Carson’s interest in space began when she was only three years old, as she watched an episode of a children’s TV show set in space. She would soon develop a lifelong obsession.

Zero Gravity Environment

Alyssa has been training for years to become a part of the very first mission to ever set foot on Mars. The tasks at hand include not only learning to live in a zero-gravity environment but learning skills in order to set up the first human colony on the neighboring planet. The mission is considered to be highly dangerous, given that it’s a first, but Alyssa is more than ready to take the chance. So are her parents.

Focus On The Future

Becoming an astronaut isn’t simply about passing a series of training requirements, but about taking on a series of sacrifices for yourself. Like any rigorous training regimen, mental fortitude is one of the key elements that NASA looks for in its potential recruits. It’s tough to get through the tasks required of those who want to drastically change their environment by going into space. It’s even harder to know that you’ll have to dedicate your foreseeable future to one endeavor.

Eye On The Prize

None of that mattered to Alyssa. For as long as she could remember, she wanted to not only go to space but be the first person to step foot on Mars. It was a tall task for such a young girl, but her parents were willing to support her dream. At first, the Carsons started out by merely indulging their daughter’s interest in space by showing her videos of Mars and then buying equipment to look out into space.

Not Just A Phase

“I thought, ‘This red planet is so cool’” Alyssa explained of her budding interest in an interview with Teen Vogue. “I started watching videos of rovers landing on Mars. I had a gigantic map of Mars in my room I would look at. We started getting telescopes so we could look at space.” At the time, Alyssa hadn’t quite grasped that she could make a career out of her love of Mars, but she was willing to do anything to get closer to space.

Let The Training Begin

Alyssa was only seven years old, but she knew it was time to take her love of the interstellar to another level. That summer, her dad signed her up for her first space camp, which took place over one weekend in Huntsville, Alabama. For the young Alyssa, Alabama wasn’t that far from her hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was a formative experience to not only interact with space in such a hands-on way, but Alyssa also managed to interact with campers from around the world.

Going Intergalactic

Huntsville, Alabama isn’t the only location of Space Camp, but given that Huntsville is where the United States Space Program originated, it’s a natural location for one of the most comprehensive children’s programs in the world. Campers have the chance to come together in one of the largest space research centers in order to learn from experience what it’s like to go to space, how to pitch in and solve problems that might arise, as well as practical uses for academics. Alyssa was instantly smitten.

Fuel For The Future

“That was the weekend of my life,” Alyssa told Teen Vogue. “I got to learn everything I had been wanting to know and more… I got to see a life-size rocket.” She knew Space Camp would not be a one-time experience, and has since returned 18 times. Not only that, she is the first person to attend every Space Camp in the world, which includes Quebec, Canada, and Izmir, Turkey. There was one experience that convinced Alyssa she had to go to Mars.

Meeting With The Pros

Despite Alyssa’s obsession with all things space, she enjoyed an otherwise typical childhood. However, that would all change when she was nine years old. Alyssa finally got the chance to meet with one of the premier female astronauts at the time, Sandra Magnus, who would have a profound impact on the young girl’s life. When Alyssa finally got the chance to speak with her, Magnus shared that she’d decided to become an astronaut when she was also nine years old.

Leveling Up

When Alyssa first began attending space camp, the activities were an age-appropriate exploration of the history behind space travel. Campers started with the basic skills required for space travel before getting the opportunity to fall out of mission control, or take a spin in a zero-gravity simulator. From the get-go, it was clear that Alyssa was excelling above and beyond her peers, often showing exemplary leadership skills when trying to complete tasks together with a team of others.

Goals In Mind

It’s not that Alyssa had never considered becoming an astronaut before, it’s just that she didn’t think it was the only thing she would do, like most kids her age. She explained, “I did the same thing as other kids, like switching my mind about careers, wanting to be a teacher or the president one day. But the way I always thought about it was I would become an astronaut, go to Mars, come back, and then be a teacher or the president.”

Shouldering Her Load

In time, Alyssa would realize it wasn’t enough for her to become just another astronaut, despite the elite status afforded to the occupation. She knew from her early love of the planet Mars that she had to be the first human being to step foot on the red planet. With that in mind, she stepped up her training, hoping that the work she was doing now would give her a leg up when the time finally came to apply to be an astronaut.

Helping Her To Succeed

Alyssa’s parents supported her lofty career goals every step of the way. They could see that she was so driven by her dream, that expecting to achieve it wouldn’t be unrealistic. From the time she decided to dedicate herself to being the first to step foot on Mars, Alyssa’s parents wanted to give her every leg up they could, so when it came time to begin high school, she enrolled in an international baccalaureate program, rather than a regular school.

Deciphering The Codes

Alyssa’s schooling was far more rigorous than the academic load that most kids take on, as she began studying in an astounding four languages, rather than just English, or even two languages. She has taken on French and Spanish, which is not uncommon in American schools, but also Chinese. Once she has actually been accepted into the NASA program, she will also have to learn Russian, a requirement for anyone who wants to travel into outer space.

Weeks At A Time

Alyssa’s current training doesn’t just include studying in an intensive educational program. She is also the youngest person ever to complete Project PoSSUM’s Advanced PoSSUM Academy, which has helped train her and other citizens interested in space about how to conduct research in the field of astronautics. Much of the work that Project PoSSUM does directly informs the actions of NASA’s astronauts. Generally, the Advanced PoSSUM Academy is only for those in the midst of their undergraduate education. Alyssa was an exception.

Breaking Records

There are many other milestones that make Alyssa so extraordinary. For one, she was the youngest person, at 12 years old, to attend all of the NASA Space Camps. She broke another record when she became the first person to visit every single NASA visitor’s center in the United States. Her completion of the NASA passport program, which demonstrates that she’s been to all of the centers, was finished in a record amount of time. Still, there’s more to Alyssa.

Branching Out

While detailing the list of accomplishments that Alyssa has conquered at such a young age makes her stand out among her peers, there are many ways that she is just a regular teenager. Like many others her age and older, Alyssa still enjoys a quiet night on the couch watching cooking shows on Netflix. She also got her driver’s license at the same time as everyone else, only she’d already completed courses to receive her scuba diving and pilot’s licenses first.

Meeting The Head Honchos

Alyssa’s work was so exemplary, even as a child, that she was quickly introduced to many of the top executives working in the field of aeronautics. From the Kennedy Space Center director, Bill Parsons, to the CEO of Space Center, Deborah Barnhart, Alyssa knows them all well. Though many people who are scientifically-inclined harbor dreams of becoming an astronaut, Alyssa is receiving mentorship from some of the top minds working in the field, which is definitely giving her a leg up.

Standing Proud

Through it all, Alyssa’s dad, Bert Carson, has been by her side. He’s accompanied her to every NASA visitor’s center, which included traveling to nine different states, as well as taking her to space camp internationally. Whenever he’s asked about his exceptional daughter, it’s clear just how much pride he has in her ambition, as well as her prior achievements. It seems Alyssa’s ambition has only fueled her father’s, who hopes to see her dreams come true sooner rather than later.

Training Ramps Up

As Alyssa is nearing the end of high school, her training has begun to ramp up to an even more technical level. She’s not just pretending to be in mission control at space camp anymore, she’s learning about the scientific mechanisms behind space travel, especially with regards to how it will affect her body. Most recently, Alyssa took time away from school to do a training about microgravity, followed by another course that taught her about oxygen deprivation.

Hands On Learning

When asked about the intensive training she’s undergone, Alyssa told Teen Vogue, “I’m building my resume,” she said. “Sometimes coming back to high school can be boring compared to this.” So can the typical college search that most of her classmates dealt with the past few years. Alyssa, unsurprisingly, was as focused as ever. She was only going to be looking at schools that offer programs in astrobiology, which will give her the skills needed to do spacewalks when the time comes.

Acceptance In Hand

Most high school students rarely know what they want to do when they graduate, though oftentimes, most know which university they’ll be attending the following fall if they go at all. Like her classmates, Alyssa has already been accepted into Florida Institute of Technology for their astrobiology program, but she’s once again dwarfed their achievements by already having acceptance into a Master’s program at the International Space University. With this credential, it’s no wonder Alyssa is shaping up to be the youngest astronaut in history.

Spreading The Inspiration

Alyssa takes her work seriously not just as an aspiring astronaut, but also as a role model for other kids and teens around the world, especially young girls. She hasn’t even been officially accepted to NASA’s astronaut program yet, but she’s still making the rounds encouraging young people to follow their dreams. She’s been booked for speaking engagements in international locales like Seoul, Korea as well as Madrid, Spain.  In one speech she said, “We are the Mars Generation. Together, we will do anything.”

For The Greater Good

One thing that most fail to consider when thinking about Alyssa’s ambition is that she will have to forgo or at least put off having a serious relationship and a family until after the Mars mission. The first Mars walk isn’t set to be ready until 2033, which would make Alyssa 32 years old, a prime age for wanting to start a family. Alyssa, however, understands that sacrifice, explaining that it’s harder to possibly never return to earth when you have a partner waiting for you.

Out Of This World[

As Alyssa is still only 17, she can’t quite apply to become an astronaut just yet, but even so, she is already far ahead of the game. While NASA generally only accepts those with degrees into their training program, Alyssa is likely to be accepted once she’s 18. Therefore, if a space mission arises in the next two years, she might be the youngest ever to go to space, and quite possibly the first teenaged astronaut in history.

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