Alyssa Carson has always dreamt of going into space – and is now working with Nasa to make it happen. 17-year-old Alyssa hopes to become the first human to set foot on the red planet. The 17-year-old, who lives in Hammond, Louisiana, is a space obsessive. Her desire to leave Earth began after watching The Backyardigans cartoon as a child.
“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.”
She’s since made it her life’s ambition to set foot on the red planet, and is currently training to become a fully-fledged astronaut.
“I did the same thing as other kids, like switching my mind about careers, wanting to be a teacher or the president one day,” Alyssa revealed. “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.”
Alyssa is hoping to join NASA’s proposed 2033 mission to Mars, which would see humans land on the planet for the first time ever. By then, Alyssa will be 32-years-old, which is a suitable age for a NASA space mission.
Alyssa’s credentials – just how prepared is she?
You’ll struggle to find a bigger space enthusiast than this…
- At just 16 years old, Alyssa’s list of accomplishments include witnessing 3 Space Shuttle launches, attending Space Camp 7 times, Space Academy 3 times, Robotics Academy once, youngest to graduated Advanced Space Academy, and multiple Sally Ride Camps
- In 2012 and 2013, she furthered her education at Space Camp Turkey and Space Camp Canada, becoming the first person to attend all three NASA Space Camps in the world
- Alyssa is also the first and only person so far to complete the NASA Passport program, visiting all 14 NASA Visitor’s Centers stretching across 9 states
- In January 2013, NASA invited her to be on the MER 10 panel in Washington DC to discuss future missions to Mars live on NASA TV
- She was later selected as one of seven ambassadors representing Mars One, a mission to establish a human colony on Mars in 2030
- In October of 2016 Alyssa was the youngest to be accepted and graduate the Advanced Possum Academy, officially making her certified to go to space and an astronaut trainee
She can’t apply for NASA’s astronaut training program until she’s 18, but it’s understood that the space agency is working with Alyssa to make her dream come true. Alyssa joined the United States Space Camp back in 2008, which she’s attended 18 times since. The space-obsessed teen is also the first person to complete the NASA Passport program – by visiting all 14 NASA Visitor Centres.
But her work towards a Mars trip doesn’t stop there. Alyssa is the youngest person to be accepted to (and graduate from) the ‘space prep’ Advanced Possum Academy, which makes her certified to go to space – and technically classifies her as an astronaut trainee.
Her training has involved learning about microgravity and how oxygen deprivation effects the body. Back in April, she attended an underwater course to help her “build my resume”. The space-faring community is international, so there’s a big emphasis on being able to speak multiple languages. That’s why Alyssa is studying all four languages her high school offers – English, Chinese, French and Spanish.
“The biggest [challenge] is time and getting everything done at such a young age while also still attending high school,” Alyssa said, speaking to Bored Panda. “Continuing to train at a young age will also be further difficulties for me but I have done great with it so far.”
Her time at Project Possum’s Space Academy has given her the opportunity to undertake high altitude mission training in a hyperbaric altitude facility. She’s also received spacesuit training, and has a Possum flight suit of her own to keep.
How long does it take to get to Mars?
It’s not quite a short trip…
- There’s an immense distance between Earth and Mars, which means any trip to the red planet will take a very long time
- It’s also made more complicated by the fact that the distance is constantly changing as the two planets rotate around the sun
- The closest that the Earth and Mars would ever be is a distance of 33.9million miles – that’s 9,800 times the distance between London and New York
- That’s really rare though: the more useful distance is the average, which is 140million miles
- Scientists on Earth have already launched a whole bunch of spacecraft to (or near) Mars, so we have a rough idea of how long it takes with current technology
- Historically, the trip has taken anywhere from 128 to 333 days – admittedly a huge length of time for humans to be on board a cramped spacecraft
Getting humans to Mars will prove tricky, however. Earlier this week, Canadian space hero Chris Hadfield revealed how we could’ve sent humans to Mars in the 1960s – but that there’s a very good reason why we didn’t. The former International Space Station commander said the risk of death for astronauts was simply too high.
“We could send people to Mars decades ago,” Hadfield told Business Insider. “The technology that took us to the moon and back when I was just a kid – that technology can take us to Mars.”
Hadfield was referring to the famous Apollo 11 mission: it was the spaceflight that landed the first two people on the moon. Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the moon on July 20, 1969 – and Hadfield is convinced that same spaceship technology could put us on Mars.
Astronauts who spend a long time in space face significant risks. One is the threat from deep-space radiation, which can cause cancer due to prolonged exposure. And a 2016 study published in the Nature journal found that astronauts who spend a long time in space have a much greater risk of deadly heart disease.
Apple’s next iPhone lands in shops in two months today – here’s what we know Hadfield compared the feat of putting humans on Mars to Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who famously circumnvagiated the world between 1519 and 1522.
“Magellan, when he launched in 1519, they launched with five ships and 250 people to try and just go around the world once, and almost everybody died,” Hadfield explained. “They only came back with like 15 or 18 people and one out of the give ships.”
He said current space travel mechanisms of “burning chemical rockets” is the “equivalent of using a sailboat or a pedal boat to try and travel around the world”.
That isn’t stopping space agencies daring to dream of putting humans on Mars, though. NASA is currently aiming for a 2033 launch, which appears to be on course for now. And billionaire PayPal founder Elon Musk is working towards an even earlier goal with his own galaxy-trotting firm, SpaceX. SpaceX currently expects to send its first cargo mission to Mars in 2022, with a human mission mooted for 2024.
Excitingly, Musk believes that his ITS ship will eventually be able to manage the Earth to Mars journey in just 30 days. Musk claims that it is vital for humans to reach Mars before the next “probable” world war, with a colonised Red Planet likely to reduce the chances of an extended new Dark Ages if a nuclear conflict was to wipe out life on Earth.
Do you think we’ll see humans on Mars in your lifetime? Let us know in the comments!