What were you doing with your life when you were 17? For most of us, the answer to this question is simple: trying to figure out who the hell I was. While we all have dreams in our late teens, we are usually only just beginning to chase them, and that’s not to mention the problems which come with taking our first tentative steps into the adult world. But the former, at least, is not an issue for 17-year-old Alyssa Carson.
Worrying about what to wear for senior prom is probably the last thing on her mind, as she’s doing something much more important – training to become one of the first people to set foot on Mars. This isn’t something which she woke up one day and decided to do, either. Oh no. This a dream which was born when Alyssa was just three years old and inspired by the Nickelodeon show The Backyardigans.
The episode that captured a young Alyssa’s imagination was Mars-themed, and ever since then, she has been obsessed with the Red Planet. After watching it, she began to learn everything she could about Mars – a decision which could see her on the first manned mission there in 2033.
Explaining her out of this world ambitions to Teen Vogue, Alyssa said:
“I thought, ‘This red planet is so cool’ I started watching videos of rovers landing on Mars. I had a gigantic map of Mars in my room I would look at. We started getting telescopes so we could look at space.”
Then, when she was just seven years old, Alyssa attended her first ever space camp. She was so inspired that she returned a further 18 times and became the first person in the world to visit all three NASA space camps.
While obsessions in early childhood are nothing unusual (for me, it was dinosaurs, I just couldn’t get enough of The Land Before Time), Alyssa knew that her love of Mars was a lot more than just a passing phase (although, admittedly, I said the same of my days as an emo kid).
Reflecting on her career ambitions so far, Alyssa said:
“I did the same thing as other kids, like switching my mind about careers, wanting to be a teacher or the president one day,
But the way I always thought about it was I would become an astronaut, go to Mars, come back, and then be a teacher or the president.”
To see Alyssa undergo extreme water training in preparation for her mission, check out the video below:
While Alyssa can’t officially apply to become an astronaut until she turns 18, she was the youngest person to ever be accepted to and graduate from the Advanced Possum Academy in 2016. This means that she’s certified to go into space as a trainee astronaut.
As it stands, the 17-year-old is preparing to go to Mars when with NASA she is 32, however, it has been reported that other organizations (such as SpaceX and MarsOne) are considering her to go on missions even sooner. So she could become the first teenager in space!
“If we can find a mission for her in the next two years, she will be the first kid in the world to go to space,” Alyssa’s father Bert Carson, who travels with around the world, said. “If we can get it together before she’s 20, she’ll be the first teenager.”
Needless to say, going to Mars is no mean feat and the training involved is staggering, albeit fascinating. So instead of experiencing bittersweet fumblings in the backseats of cars like most of us did at her age, Alyssa is traveling the world learning about subjects like microgravity.
But if this video is anything to go by Alyssa certainly is enjoying her training!
On the subject of relationships, the 17-year-old has said that she’s refraining from getting involved with anyone romantically until her mission to Mars is complete. This is because she will have to spend four years away from Earth and won’t return until she’s 36.
NASA is completely onboard with the teenager’s decision in this department and she said to Teen Vogue:
“The idea of having a family, that is something NASA would want you to consider once you come back from Mars.
It’s a place we’ve never been to, and it’s a dangerous mission. Having someone you love on earth, that’s a distraction.”
While refraining from love until I’m in my late 30s isn’t something I’d personally be on board with, Alyssa has a good reason for avoiding temptation, and because she’s documenting her incredible journey on social media, she’s definitely inspiring other young people to chase their dreams at an early age too – and let’s face, what’s a few years of sacrifice when you’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of satisfaction?
Or, as will likely be the case for Alyssa, the esteemed title of being the first teenager in space and/or one of the first people on Mars. Who knows? She might meet her soulmate on the trip and that would definitely be a love story worth making into a Hollywood blockbuster! (And hey, if they ever end up having children on Mars, then their kids would be Martians!)
We’d like to take this opportunity to wish Alyssa all the best on her quest.