For the rest of us, space may seem more like a far-fetched concept we’re content to quietly ponder upon when we’re feeling extra emo or profound, but for 17-year-old Alyssa Carson, space is a tangible dream; a constant reminder on her bedroom wall as the one and only ultimate goal.
Alyssa’s fascination with space took root when she was just three years old. After watching an episode of the cartoon show The Backyardigans which featured the characters on an adventure on Mars, the intriguing red planet stuck with her.
At seven, her father prompted Alyssa on her dream by enrolling her at a space camp. She loved the experience so much, she came back 18 more times. She actually holds the record for being the youngest to complete the NASA Passport program.
At 12, she was part of the panel at the Smithsonian which discussed the future of Mars missions.
By the age of 14, she was accepted to pursue a master’s degree at the International Space University after, of course, earning her astrobiology degree from the Florida Institute of Technology, where she will attend college.
And while the rest of us are barely sure of what we’re doing, Alyssa continued to spend her teenage years by working on solidifying her dream. She has already obtained a pilot’s license and scuba license, simulated missions, and even mastered robotics and built her own rockets. Currently, she is working on gaining an applied astronautics professional certification. She has also travelled the world to give talks to teenagers her age about space exploration and the importance of following their own dreams. On top of all that, she’s studying in high school. In four languages!
Though the mission to Mars isn’t set to be ready until 2033, various space organizations are already considering her for other missions. At 20, she is likely to be the youngest human to go to space. And although NASA’s policies won’t let her apply as an astronaut until she’s 18, the agency is rooting for her, and is already training her to be one of the first few people to set foot on Mars.
Needless to say, this girl is inspiring. But the point of this story isn’t to make us feel bad about ourselves. In fact, her father affirms she’s no prodigy. She wasn’t born with the skill. She wasn’t born a genius. But what she was, was determined and hardworking. She was also mature enough to understand the sacrifices that come with fulfilling her lifelong dream, like the fact that she can’t get married or have children, at least not before her mission on Mars is completed.
If there’s one thing Alyssa teaches us, it’s that whatever shape or form our dreams take—no matter how implausible or difficult it may seem—it can be done. You just need to find that one thing you’re really passionate about, something you believe is worth it—worth every effort, time, and sacrifice—and just go for it.
Art by Marian Hukom
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