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Astronaut Abby’s Quest to Be The First Woman on Mars

When Abby Harrison was just five years old, she looked up at the night sky and knew she wanted to go to space.

Now, at 22 years old, she wants to be the first astronaut on Mars. A lofty goal, since only 57 of the 534 people that have flown to space are women.

Even though many told her that becoming an astronaut was an unattainable job, like a superhero, Harrison kept talking about it for six years. By the time she was 11, Harrison’s mom knew she was serious and told her that she would need to research exactly how to fulfill her dreams.

Harrison came back the next day with two sheets of paper, detailing two different 20-year plans to become an astronaut.

So far, Harrison is well on her way to becoming an astronaut. She just graduated from Wellesley College with degrees in astrobiology and Russian. In the last four years at college, she founded a nonprofit organization called The Mars Generation, earned her private pilot’s license, researched for a month at Lake Baikal in Siberia, joined the dive team at Wellesley, learned to code, researched with artificial intelligence, ran a marathon, worked as an astrobiologist at the Kennedy Space Center, and pursued a variety of other hobbies.

It’s clear Harrison has never been one to step down from a challenge. In 2013, Harrison first opened her Astronaut Abby Twitter account. This started her on her way to connecting with experts in the field. Because of this, she was invited to write for NASA’s space station blog and create her brand as Astronaut Abby.

Harrison has always been focused, giving a TEDx talk about following your dreams and starting the nonprofit The Mars Generation as a response to children who are excited about space, but can’t afford the fees of the official space camp. Her organization provides scholarships so that children across America can attend space camp. Since the start, over 40 students have been able to attend on scholarship. “I had a parent who was really involved in my development, she had time outside of job to focus on my sister and I could help fill out forms and find programs to fundraise. In some communities we find, the parents are working so hard to meet basic needs. So, we’re matchmaking for dreams and lighting the spark,” Harrison said of her involvement.

Even though Harrison has faced her share of struggles and sexism, she isn’t shaken from her dream. It may take her another 10-15 years to become an astronaut, but she’s ready for the challenge. “I’ve fallen down more times than I can count over the last decade. I’ve been thinking about how important it is to fail over the last year. But the advice I have is that failure is not the exception, it’s the norm. And the only thing that holds you back with failure is whether or not you’re willing to get up and try again afterward,” she said.

Featured Image by Hubble ESA on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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