Meet the 19 year old preparing to be one of the first people on Mars

International Women’s Day marks a period of reflection and celebration. Every year on the 8th March, we commemorate the achievements of women that came before us, while further raising awareness around women’s rights and the need to lobby for further change. For many, this occasion marks an opportunity for women to reflect upon what it means to be a woman. There is no sole answer to this question and therefore the importance of International Women’s Day means different things for different women across the world. 

When I think of what International Women’s Day means, the poem Legacy by Rupi Kaur particularly resonates: “I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking… what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see further”. For me at least, this poem perfectly captures the essence of the day.

Whilst there are many social, cultural, political, and economic accomplishments by and for women, it’s no secret that there are many barriers that still need to be broken. From my experience of being a STEM student at university, the lack of gender representation within STEM professions has become increasingly apparent. Along with a gender pay gap and glaring disparity in the percentage of women and men in positions of power, there is also the need for more of a spotlight on the positive female role models and their work throughout these fields.

Alyssa Carson is a perfect example of a woman in STEM whose story deserves more attention. At 3 years old, Carson dreamt of becoming an astronaut. At 19, she became the youngest person in history to pass NASA’s aerospace test and joined project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere), a research group studying the world’s upper atmosphere and its role in a changing environment. More recently, Carson was selected as one of the seven ambassadors for Mars One, with the expectation that she will be one of the first humans to reach Mars in 2030. 

Alyssa Carson on her journey to Mars. Source: TEDx Talks.

As well as being an aspiring astronaut, Alyssa Carson is also a motivational speaker. In one of her many interviews, she shares her childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut and the steps she has taken to achieve them. Carson most notably campaigns for “changing the paradigm for next generations”, in which she identifies the need to move away from most traditional ideas which dictate who is capable of being an astronaut and the requirements to become one.  

On many occasions, Carson has outlined the lessons she’s learnt during her journey to becoming an astronaut; in which she highlights the importance of hard work, sacrifice, and never giving up. In one interview, Carson encouraged people to “never stop giving, never give up on your dreams, and to never let anyone take your dreams away from you”. For many reasons, Alyssa Carson is someone who I very much admire and is a role model for many girls in STEM today. She really is standing on the shoulders of giants and paving the way for a new generation of young women.

By Megan Pierce

Featured image via Teen Vogue.