“I am the Mars Generation,” wrote 13-year-old Alyssa Carson on Facebook in January. She wants to be the first person to set foot on the planet Mars — a mission that could happen by 2030.
Since the age of 3, when Carson learned that no human had ever visited the Red Planet, she dreamed of going to Mars. And her fascination has morphed into a desire to ensure the survival of the human race. “It is time for us to explore beyond this planet. Remember, a single-planet species will become extinct,” said Carson in a TEDx lecture.
American space agency NASA says only 330 astronauts have been selected since 1959, among an increasingly competitive and diverse pool of applicants. To increase her odds of being chosen for the Astronaut Candidate Program, Carson has been learning foreign languages. She’s hard at work in math and science, and building robots and exercising on zero-gravity machines at space camps.
Graduation from the program requires all of these skills, not to mention swimming three lengths of a 25-meter pool in a flight suit and tennis shoes during the first month of training. Already, NASA officials are taking note. (Read about the female astronauts who made history.)
After all this, plus school, piano lessons and ballet, Carson finds time to discuss her ambitions with fans and the media. It seems everyone wants to meet the determined teen. She tells them that humans are, by nature, exploratory creatures. She asks if they want to follow the path of dinosaurs into extinction. But maybe, more than anything, the resolute Carson reminds them that anything is possible. “I hope I’ve inspired some kids to follow their own dreams,” blogged Carson — in English, Spanish and French.
Are you or someone you know interested in science, technology, engineering or math? Help organizations working to support girls’ education around the world. Learn about TechGirls, an exchange program for young girls from the Middle East and North Africa that emphasizes hands-on skills in fields such as Web design, robotics and video graphics. Girls Who Code equips girls with the skills and resources needed to pursue modern-day opportunities in computing fields.