(RNN) – Becoming an astronaut takes years of training, study, dedication and specialization. It requires an expertise only a handful of people on Earth ever develop.
Being the first astronaut on Mars? That would take a lifetime of preparation.
Luckily for 17-year-old Alyssa Carson, she’s right on track.
Carson has had her sights set on space since she was 3 years old. And in her young life she’s already racked up a dizzying amount of accomplishments in pursuit of that goal.
She’s attended numerous space camps and academies, graduated from multiple space flight programs, featured as part of a Netflix documentary, and even floated already, during a research program in Canada.
That experience, she said in an email, is “the thing that is the hardest to describe to people.”
“It is a feeling like no other to float.”
Carson is also the youngest person to be accepted into and graduate from the Advanced PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) Academy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. That certified her to be a scientist/astronaut trainee, according to a biography posted on a state government website for Louisiana, where she is from.
If she can find a mission, in the next couple years she could become the first teenager in space, her father, Bert, told Teen Vogue in March.
After space, the ultimate goal is Mars.
Carson wants to be the first person to set foot on the red planet, and is targeting 2033 (when she would be 32) for what would be a 2-3 year mission.
She told Teen Vogue her love affair with the planet began with a cartoon, which featured an episode where the characters go to Mars.
“I thought, ‘This red planet is so cool,’” she said. “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.”
She said in an email that to get to Mars, the next 15 years of her life will require her to get a PhD in astrobiology and, of course, fly to space, conduct research missions, and generally become the best in her field.
Most immediately, she said she is set to complete a professional certificate in applied astronautics, which would allow her to do a suborbital research flight. Suborbital flight generally involves going high enough above the earth so as to be considered in space, but not going so far as to actually enter orbit.
And, in September, Carson is doing geology training in Iceland.
It’s a level of commitment most teenagers can’t fathom.
“A lot of the motivation is based on my dream and passion to get to Mars,” she said in an email. “And I have held true to that.”
She said that on Mars, she would “plan to be the Mission Specialist and study the rocks, soil, and look for bacterial life in the steam and water” on the planet.
In addition to contacts and camps with NASA, she has built relationships with private enterprises like SpaceX and Mars One – “Just keeping my options open to whoever is ready first to go to Mars,” she said.
She’s optimistic about the 2033 mission coming to fruition.
A lot of what is technically necessary is already possible, or at least can be developed in the next 15 years. Then it will come down to things like funding and willpower.
Interestingly, Carson - who speaks four languages, including Mandarin - envisions it coming together as a collaborative, global effort.
“I believe this will be a world mission to Mars, not just NASA,” she said.
If she does take the first steps on Martian soil, she’s not entirely sure yet what she would say to follow up Neil Armstrong’s, “One small step for man…”
But something about “looking at our pale blue dot Earth in the distance" is in the works.
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