By Rebecca Moore
Abigail Harrison, or better known to the internet, “AstronautAbby,” is one of the most impressive young people in America right now. She dreams of becoming the first astronaut to land on Mars, and with her resume, she’s more than qualified.
In 5th grade, Abby was chosen to participate in her school’s GEMS program (Girls in Engineering, Mathematics and Science) where she studied science and engineering and even worked with NASA. By 8th grade, she made an award winning project entitled Debate and Diplomacy: The History of the ISS.
In high school she balanced Model UN, Student Youth and government, captaining her gymnastics team, being a varsity member of both the dive and track and field team, all while volunteering with local kids science programs. She even spent her senior year with a doubled class load, attending the University of Minnesota and getting a jumpstart on her college credits. Now she attends Wellesley College, studying Astrobiology. Somehow, in all that, she’s found time to start a nonprofit: The Mars Generation.
Their mission: “to build a stronger tomorrow by energizing our youth today about space and STEM and educating kids and adults about the importance of deep space exploration to humankind”. The Mars Generation will serve as a catalyst to identify students with an interest in STEM and nurture their study in STEM education. Abby isn’t just about focusing on her own dreams, she wants to inspire others to reach for theirs.
“I’m really excited about Student Space Ambassadors,” says Abby, speaking about one of The Mars Generation’s newest programs. “So often I get people coming up to me and asking ‘How can I do what you’re doing?’ What they really mean is ‘How can I impact my community?’”
The Student Space Ambassador Program was designed as a mentorship program to give guidance to teens and young adults excited to share their love of space with their community. Students ages 13-24 are eligible to sign up. “From formal presentations, to reading story books to young kids, to answering questions at an event you can share your passion for space. The Mars Generation will provide ideas and resources to help you evolve your own outreach efforts.”
The Mars Generation currently has a rather impressive board of directors filled with NASA astronauts, private industry engineers, and other notable scientists. Students who are lucky enough to gain one of these spots will truly have a unique and remarkable experience.
With the current government haggling over NASA’s budget, democrats wanting more money to be put into global warming research, and republicans wanting it in deep space, the need for more of the next generation to be educated and inspired on the purpose of NASA is vital.
Commenting on the budget, Abby said, “We need them to do both. A large part of what they do is looking after our own planet. Their mission is space exploration, earth observation, and education. A lot of people forget about the second because they just think about outer space. We can’t have an either or. We shouldn’t have to trade exploration for protection of our own planet. And vice versa. Both things are incredibly important for us today and our future.”
Unfortunately, NASA’s budget is still barely a period on the national budget. For years now, it’s been below 0.5%. The agency that is responsible for much of our current day to day technology, including cell phones, MRI’s, and microwaves has been sidelined. It’s an incredibly short sighted move, but luckily Abby and people like her are not taking that lying down. For all the cynicism that Americans have about their own future, Abigail Harrison should give everyone a little more hope for what tomorrow has in store.
Go to themarsgeneration.org to learn more about Student Space Ambassadors and their other programs, including space camp scholorahips.
You can follow Abby on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and her own website. Also, keep your eyes out for March’s issue of Seventeen Magazine, where she was named one of their 17 Power Teens of 2016.
(Image via Abby's Twitter)