Teen Has Sights Set on Being First Human on Mars

Alyssa Carson, 19, has been training to be an astronaut to be part of the first Mars mission.

(Image courtesy of NasaBlueberry.com.)

(Image courtesy of NasaBlueberry.com.)

When asked what they want to be when the grow up, many children answer “astronaut.” Few spend their whole childhood and teenage years dedicated to making that dream a reality. Alyssa Carson, 19, is one of the few who has, and she aspires to not only go into space but also to be the first human on Mars.

“I would love to be one of the first scientists to look for signs of exterior life and study the atmosphere and soil to really see what we can do with Mars,” Carson said.

Her dedication and passion to explore space has resulted in an impressive training resume. Along with witnessing three shuttle launches, she attended Space Camp seven times, Space Academy three times, and Robotics academy one time. She also completed the NASA Passport Program, which involved visiting the 14 NASA centers in the U.S. Having receiving certification in applied astronautics, she is technically certified for suborbital research.

A significant amount of Carson’s training has been through Project PoSSUM, a private citizen science organization that has a range of offerings for youth and college grads, from learning about studying noctilucent clouds to testing spacesuits.

“We’re studying the earth’s upper atmosphere, and the ultimate goal is to have a suborbital flight into the mesosphere—the highest layer of the atmosphere,” Carson said. “We’ve done microgravity flights with spacesuits, water survival training with spacesuits to help with the development, decompression training, and we’ve learned about different G-forces by simulating them in airplanes.”

After NASA’s announcement to launch a manned Mars vision by 2030, Carson’s interest and focus remained steady. She was selected as one of seven ambassadors representing the human colony mission, Mars One. Even with the potential unknowns and hazards, she has no qualms about trying to be one of the people who make history.

“The radiation levels in space don’t scare me because I’ve learned about it for so long and it’s just become a norm at this point,” Carson said. “There’s always a sense of fear that something could go wrong since no mission to space has ever been 100 percent safe. But I definitely believe that a mission to Mars, and all the benefits we can get from it, outweigh any of the risks.”

In the meantime, Carson is focused on studying astrobiology. That field of study will prepare her for the search for lifeforms via knowledge gained about the smallest bacteria to atmospheric or soil resources to the evolution of the solar system and beyond. She has also gained a following through various social media outlets encouraging others to get more involved with STEM programs.

“When I was 3 and dreamed of being an astronaut and going to Mars, it was probably the most ridiculous dream I could have picked,” Carson said. “But the more I’ve worked toward it, the more of a reality it’s becoming.”

Interested in how humans are preparing for future Mars exploration? Check out A Race to Mars Is Starting in Summer 2020 and These Wind Turbines Could Power Future Martian Weather Stations.