As an 18-year-old who's training to be the first astronaut on Mars, the Moon landing means everything to me

When humans come together with one goal, we can achieve the impossible, and Mars could be the next accomplishment. I may even be the one to take the first steps

Alyssa Carson
Sunday 21 July 2019 16:20
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Apollo 11 spaceship takes off for moon mission on 20 July 1969

My dream ever since I was a little girl has been to successfully complete a mission to the Red Planet, a goal that was made possible by my biggest idols in space history. Though it began with a fantasy, it wasn’t long before I began taking it extremely seriously, studying maps of Mars, reading about space, and watching videos of rovers crawling along surfaces of various planets. I then went to space camp, which flooded my mind with the possibilities of careers and opportunities I could undertake in space. As I grew up and continued going to camp, I learned what I wanted my role to be. I was going to be the first person on Mars.

This weekend is the golden anniversary of the Apollo missions. Apollo was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) third space program, which succeeded following a goal set by president John F Kennedy in 1962. Only seven years later, we had done it. And now, 50 years later, we’re commemorating all 400,000 people who have since had a hand in getting a total of 24 astronauts to the moon, landing 12 of them on its surface, and returning them all home safely.

Alyssa Carson wearing space gear

The space program has excited me since I could remember. This generation is starting to ignite the same spirit that was present half a century ago when getting to the moon was still a mere aspiration. Despite not seeing men walk on the moon with my own eyes at the time, I assure you, we will make history like this again in my lifetime. I may even be the one to make the first steps. When humans come together with one goal, we can achieve the impossible, and Mars could be the next accomplishment.

The Apollo program gave us a model for keeping up the enthusiasm towards a goal that was once considered impossible. Without the incredibly smart people who problem-solved a way to lift 6.2 million pounds off of planet Earth, into space, towards the moon, landing men, and returning them safely, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Nor would I.

As part of my mission to make history, I have joined a citizen science program called Project Possum.

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Possum studies the Earth’s upper atmosphere and also works in the development of Final Frontier Space Suit Design. Through my training with the program, I became certified for a research suborbital space flight mission by the age of 17. A year later, Mars remains my ultimate goal, even if I have to wait until the early 2030s for the rocket, technology and crew to be ready.

Anyone of any age has the capacity to understand the importance of this celebration, whether it is a feeling of nostalgia or anticipation for what the future holds. I love the Apollo program and what it did and I cannot wait to continue in similar footsteps in my own career.

We should celebrate the minds, time, commitment, passion and bravery of those who risked their lives for the Apollo program in the hope of sparking that same spirit that lives in many people today. It is beautiful timing that, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we are also in the midst of introducing Project Artemis to bring humans back to the moon and eventually on to Mars.

As we look back and admire the Saturn V rocket that brought us to the moon, we should also look forward to the Space Launch System, due to launch in 2020 as part of the Artemis project. I truly am very excited for the future of the space program and the direction it is headed. Further space exploration is the way of the future, and I am all in.

Alyssa Carson is an 18-year-old aspiring astronaut and space enthusiast. She has witnessed three space shuttle launches, attended Space Camp seven times, Space Academy three times, Robotics Academy once and is the youngest to have graduated from the Advanced Space Academy. Find more about Alyssa here

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