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It's been years now since the scientific community has confirmed the disastrous effects humankind and its industries have on the world. With the acceleration of global warming, the polar icecaps melting, huge quantities of plastic dumped in the ocean, and mass deforestation, it's fair to say our species has done more harm than good to the planet we call home.
So, what do we do? Well - it may be that we go the WALL-E route and just abandon the whole thing and find another planet entirely. But before we do that, we need to figure out if we can get a human being all the way to the nearest appropriate planet.
That's where Alyssa Carson comes in. Born in 2001 (yes, she's that young) in Hammond, Lousiana, the 17-year-old is an astronaut trainee aiming to be on the first human mission to Mars. At the age of three, she already knew she wanted to travel to Mars - but unlike a lot of dreams that come from the wild imaginations of toddlers, she's en route to make it a reality.
To support her lofty aspirations, her father, Bert, enrolled her in the United States Space Camp in 2008. Attending this several times, as well as others in Laval, Quebec, and Izmir, Turkey, she eventually became the first person to visit all three NASA Space Camps.
NASA have strict conditions for those who want to be a part of the mission to Mars in 2033, but they're doing everything they can to help her become the perfect candidate. By the date of the mission, she will be 32 - the perfect age for an astronaut, right in time for the technology to be ready.
Speaking to Teen Vogue in March this year, the teenager explained how it was a cartoon that inspired her to go to Mars. One episode of The Backyardigans saw five animal friends go on an imaginary adventure to Mars.
“I thought, ‘This red planet is so cool’” she said. “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 has now mastered the basics of space, robotics and has even built her own rockets. As she has gotten older she has been on simulated missions, as an astronaut and taking over mission control. Her official call sign, a nickname given to her for correspondence, is 'Bluberry'.
According to Alyssa, there are other groups (such as SpaceX and MarsOne) that are considering sending her into space (although not to Mars) much earlier. “If we can find a mission for her in the next two years, she will be the first kid in the world to go to space,” said her father said. “If we can get it together before she’s 20, she’ll be the first teenager.”
Before the big trip, she can't spend much time on any serious romances. "The idea of having a family, that is something NASA would want you to consider once you come back from Mars,” Alyssa explained. “It’s a place we’ve never been to, and it’s a dangerous mission. Having someone you love on Earth, that's a distraction.”
If she meets anyone sooner now, she said that "He will have to wait.”
Alyssa takes weeks off school, in which she is learning subjects in four languages, to do training around the world. The training includes everything from microgravity, to how the body reacts to losing oxygen, to an underwater course.
It seems like Alyssa is going to be an incredible NASA candidate when the time comes.