By Michelle Fouchi Esneault
Ask a 3-year-old what they want to be when they grow up and they’re likely to say a princess, a superhero or a firefighter. For most kids, their aspirations eventually change. Not for 14-year-old Alyssa Carson. Her dream has remained consistent: Be one of the first humans on Mars.
Alyssa first got the idea of going to Mars when she was 3 years old. “I was watching TV and these kids went off on a mission to Mars,” she relates. “I wanted to be one of those kids.” That got her more interested in space, which grew into her desire to become an astronaut. When Alyssa was 9 years old, she met astronaut Sandra Magnus, who told Alyssa that she decided to become an astronaut when she was 9 years old. “Because I was 9 at the time, it showed me that you could start young and succeed in your dreams,” Alyssa says.
Alyssa has an impressive list of accomplishments. She speaks several
languages, including English, Spanish, French, Chinese and Turkish. She has witnessed three Space Shuttle launches, attended the Sally Ride Camp at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has become the first person to complete the NASA Passport Program, going to all 14 NASA Visitor Centers in the United States.
Recently, Alyssa enrolled in college level classes at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. She has attended Space Camp seven times, becoming the first person to complete all of NASA’s World Space Camps in Huntsville, AL; Laval, Canada; and the Aegean Free Zone in Izmir, Turkey.
Alyssa and her dad have established a charitable foundation that raises money to help send kids to Space Camp. They named the foundation “The Blueberry Foundation” after Alyssa’s NASA call sign, Blueberry. “It was given to me by my Space Camp counselor. He said I looked like a blueberry in my flight suit,” Alyssa explains.
Alyssa is a budding celebrity. She gave a TEDx talk in Greece and a speech at X-STEM, a Washington, D.C., symposium for students in grades 6-12 featuring innovators in STEM. She appears regularly at local schools to encourage girls’ interest in STEM subjects and to inspire kids to follow their dreams.
“I think it’s important for kids not to allow someone else to decide what their dreams should be or to tell them that they can’t do something. We really can do anything,” she says.
Alyssa has planned the next 20 years of her life. She wants to get her certifications and pilot’s license. She wants to go to college, first at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, then the International Space University and MIT. “I’ve always felt positive about my plan,” she says. “Over the years it has changed a bit, but I never doubted it.”
Alyssa finds time to play soccer, dance ballet and enjoy piano. She’s a Girl Scout and in her school’s drama club. “I see myself as someone who has a deep drive and passion, someone who is focused on her career,” she says. “But at the same time I lead a regular 14-year-old life”