Most 15-year-olds aren’t thinking about visiting other planets, but Alyssa Carson is different: for almost her entire life, she’s been planning to be one of the first humans to step foot on Mars.
And judging by how committed she seems to the cause, she just might stand a chance.
She’s already become the first person to attend all of NASA’s Space Camps worldwide, is the youngest person to ever complete the Advanced Space Academy course, and is now studying college-level classes from 10th grade – in four languages.
“I first got interested in going to Mars when I was three years old,” Alyssa says in the UPROXX video above. “I do everything that every other normal kid does, except on the side I’m training to become an astronaut and go to Mars!”
Most recently she’s become the youngest person ever accepted into Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere), a non-profit research program studying the upper atmosphere, and certifying would-be astronauts for flying into space.
That’s an impressive list of achievements already – you have to tick a lot of boxes if you want to make it as an astronaut, but Alyssa is checking them off one by one.
And having seen her TEDx talk, we wouldn’t bet against her realising her dream.
“She’s got the right mental attitude, she’s doing everything that she can physically here on Earth to prepare herself for that journey to Mars,” says NASA Stennis Space Centre public affairs officer Paul Foerman.
Next up for Alyssa is oxygen deprivation training and advanced scuba diving.
After that, she’s planning to study science at Cambridge University in the UK, get a masters in space engineering at the International Space University in France, and then head to MIT to study astrobiology – so there’s still a long way and a lot of hard work to go.
At least Alyssa’s age is in her favour: NASA is planning to start missions to Mars from 2030, by which time she’ll be 29 – just a few years lower than the average.
If you want to keep track of her progress, bookmark her official NASA Blueberry site, named after her call sign of choice.
While dad Bert Carson has been supportive throughout – and says he’s learned more about space than he ever thought he would – he still gets emotional at the thought of saying goodbye to his daughter, perhaps forever.
“That’s hard,” he says in the video above. “But for what she’s wanting to do, I have to support her, I have to let her go. It’s bigger than the two of us.”
And if the first trip ends up being a one-way journey, as some have speculated, Alyssa isn’t phased.
“Even though there’s a lot of risk in going to Mars, I believe the rewards are so much greater,” she says. “At the end of the day there’s so much good that can come from this mission.”
Watch her inspiring TEDx talk below: