Abigail ‘Astronaut Abby’ Harrison, Aspiring Astronaut, Founder of The Mars Generation and International STEAM and Space Ambassador
Years ago as a young child, around the age of 5, I remember looking up at the night sky and dreaming of someday going there. I didn’t know how and I didn’t know when but I knew that I would go to space.
Over the years my dream has grown larger than myself. And even if I’m not the one who makes it to becoming an astronaut or being the first to step foot on Mars, I will work tirelessly my entire life to ensure we will get humans to Mars in my lifetime.
Voicing my dream to someday become an astronaut and the first human to step foot on Mars has opened me up to many amazing experiences. Because I had a solid plan outlined at age 11, so many people have believed in me and encouraged me to reach for my dreams. This encouragement and support led me to incorporate space into everything I did as a child and teenager. I did not know at the time that my quest to learn more about space and to go to Mars would lead to a worldwide movement.
In 2011, At the age of 13, I setup a Twitter account with the childhood name of @AstronautAbby to get a quote from a NASA employee for a school project. I got the quote which was exciting but I also got so much more than that simple quote. I found a community online of people who were just as excited about space exploration as I was. I was embraced as a leader of my generation and I chose to share my journey online through Twitter and my blog at astronautabby.org.
How The Mars Generation Nonprofit Was Founded in 2015
In 2013, at the age of 15, I had an opportunity to share my journey to Mars in a much bigger way. I was invited to attend a legendary Soyuz launch in Russia as a VIP guest of my mentor Astronaut Luca Parmitano. This was Luca’s first launch into space and I was to be an instrumental part of it. Sharing not only the launch but his entire experience of living on the ISS for 6 months. I partnered with Luca as his Earth Liaison (something that had never been done before) and I shared his experiences living in space through my social media channels, public speaking, web chats and writing blogs.
This project with Luca led to me starting a worldwide outreach program geared at igniting passion and excitement about space, STEM and dreaming with kids around the world. I called the program the Future of Space Outreach Program. It was the two years of running this program by myself that led to me founding The Mars Generation in 2015.
The Mars Generation is an international nonprofit that operates in the United States as a registered 501(c)(3) organization. The focus of the organization is empower others to excite people about human space exploration, STEM and advocacy for human space exploration. I am the leader of the organization as both the spokesperson and chair the executive board. But there are many people on our board and as volunteers who make this organization what it is today! Most importantly is the community that has embraced this nonprofit and our mission and continue to support it!
It is unbelievable that as a college student I could have started something that continues to grow larger everyday. In just 3.5 years we have reached over 35 million people and have a following of over 1.1 million people on social media.
Working Towards My Own Dreams and Helping Build Others Too
While running The Mars Generation, I also continue to work towards my own dreams to become a PhD astrobiologist and eventually to become an astronaut and hopefully part of the first crew to Mars. I am now a graduate from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and am working at Harvard Medical School in the Jackson Lab as a research scientist. I look forward to starting graduate school next year.
I also continue to build my skills in other areas that are important for astronauts. I am an advanced certified PADI scuba diver, I attained my private pilot license in 2019 and am working on my instrument rating, I have worked in a NASA funded Mars research internship and so much more. The odds of making it all the way to becoming an astronaut are slim, but I am doing everything I can to increase my chances. And I am continuing to share my journey online through my social media channels.
My outreach work may not help me to become an astronaut, but it is incredibly important work and a big part of my own journey to Mars. As an advocate for space, STEM and dreaming big I work to inspire the many kids and adults who have a dream but aren’t sure if they should move forward with it. Every time someone sends me a message or approaches me after I speak, to tell me I’ve inspired them, I am incredibly inspired to continue to reach for my own Mars. I am endlessly grateful for people’s willingness to share their own dreams and reach for their own Mars. Thank you for being a part of my journey. Thank you for supporting the future of space.
We are the Mars Generation, and we are ready.