Alyssa Carson is a regular teenager, except alongside impressively taking her classes at school in four languages (English, French, Spanish, Chinese), she’s training to become an astronaut and travel to Mars. Alyssa is the youngest person to graduate from the Advanced Space Academy and the first person to complete every NASA space camp in the world!
Alyssa Carson is certainly the most dedicated 16-year-old that I know of and her drive to become an astronaut has motivated me work harder! In a new series featuring the next generation of Rocket Women, Alyssa talks to Rocket Women about her drive to travel to Mars.
How were you inspired to choose a career in the space industry and what drives your passion for space?
I got inspired to become an astronaut and go to Mars while watching a cartoon television show called the Backyardigans. In this show there were friends who went on an imaginary trip to Mars. Watching this as a 3-year-old made me want to be like the characters in the show and travel to Mars. After the episode ended I asked my dad if humans had been to Mars and if it was possible to travel there.
I was then fascinated with wanting to go to space. I began reading books, watching videos, and started learning everything I could about space, rockets and Mars. I never let go of my dream of becoming an astronaut.
I was fascinated with wanting to go to space. I began reading books, watching videos, and started learning everything I could about space, rockets and Mars. I never let go of my dream of becoming an astronaut.
Your goal is to become an astronaut and be one of the first people to step foot on Mars. Can you talk about your journey to become an astronaut and how you hope to achieve this?
The journey for me to become an astronaut includes me completing the rest of high school and then going to college to get a degree in astrobiology. With that degree I could become a mission specialist and study the soil, water, and history of the planet Mars. After graduating college I will start applying to the astronaut selection program after my PhD and work in the astrobiology field as I continue to apply. Once selected I will train for the mission which is currently scheduled to happen in the 2030s.
Who have been your role models growing up? How important are role models to young girls?
One of my biggest role models growing up was astronaut Sandra Magnus. I had the chance to talk to her when I was 9 years old at a Sally Ride Day Camp. When I spoke to her she told about how she she decided to become as astronaut at the age of 9. Hearing how she decided her career at a young age and then fulfilled it by going to space several times really inspired me that you can decide what you want to do at a young age and then accomplish those goals. Role models are extremely important to girls because it gives them someone to look up to. Also it is motivation to continue searching and following dreams.
Success for me means becoming a mission specialist for the mission to Mars.
What does success mean to you?
Success for me means becoming a mission specialist for the mission to Mars. Also having the opportunity to make new discoveries by exploring a new planet. Another big success would be influencing as many kids as I can to follow their dreams and to help them as much as I can.
How did your family help to shape your career path in STEM?
My family has been a huge support in my dream. Even from the first time I mentioned the idea I had a lot of support. My dad especially has helped so much and enabled me to pursue the career that I wanted. I definitely would not be at the point I am now without him.
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
Everything has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.
If you had one piece of advice for your 10-year-old self, what would it be? Would there be any decisions that you’d have made differently?
The advice that I would give my 10-year-old self would be to cherish every moment because all experiences are once in a lifetime. I don’t really think I would have done anything differently since I began working on my dream. Everything has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.
Learn more about Alyssa Carson in this short clip produced in conjunction with National Geographic’s brilliant Mars series: