Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Carson has garnered media attention for her determination to be part of a space mission to Mars. But although her desire has been recognized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), she is not officially in training with that organization to become an astronaut or to take part the first human mission to Mars.
Carson first began generating media attention when she was 12, at which point she had already attended three different space shuttle launches and taken part in NASA space camps in three different countries. She was also the first person to complete the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s “Passport to Explore Space” program, which requires visiting each of 14 NASA visitor centers across nine different states in the U.S. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, though, is managed by a NASA contractor and is not funded by the agency itself.
Completing the “Passport to Explore Space” program also led to Carson’s being a panelist at an event hosted by NASA and the Smithsonian, marking ten years of exploration by the Mars Exploration Rovers. As well, Carson has her own call sign,” Blueberry.”
However, a NASA spokesperson confirmed to us that Carson is not currently training with or being “prepped” by that agency, as some reports have suggested. Also contrary to some reports, NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Program has no age requirement for applications, although according to the agency “astronaut candidates selected in the past have ranged between the ages of 26 and 46, with the average age being 34.”
In December 2017, President Donald Trump signed White House Space Policy Directive 1, which his administration said would “lay the foundation” for a mission to Mars. Carson’s father, Bert, told Teen Vogue magazine that private companies have “considered” sending her on missions into space — although not to Mars.
“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,” he said. “If we can get it together before she’s 20, she’ll be the first teenager.”
One private group, Mars One, has already selected Carson to be one of their ambassadors. Carson wrote on that group’s website about her interest in visiting the Red Planet:
I would love to go to Mars because it is a planet that no one has been before. It’s about the same size as the Earth and there are ice caps at the top and bottom of Mars. That means there is water on Mars. This could possibly be our next Earth. Just think about all the things that are in Space. For example: planets we have never explored, galaxies that we have never heard of, stars that are just babies, black holes that are as wide as the Sun to Pluto multiple times and has the mass of a billion suns, parts of the universe that we have never seen. Just think of all that stuff just floating around. It’s more than you can imagine.
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