Eighteen-year-old Alyssa Carson is the youngest — and perhaps, the most serious — astronaut training to go to Mars.
Now appearing alongside Bill Nye in a Super Bowl ad for Soda Stream depicting life on Mars, Inverse spoke to Carson about her very real ambitions to get to the Red Planet within the next decade — and what she will most about life on Earth.
As space organizations take giant leaps towards taking humans to the Red Planet by the 2030s — from rovers to smart gloves, to Ikea even designing shelves suitable for Martian habitats — Carson's training may soon be put into practice. And she’s ready.
“When you’re applying to become an astronaut, you accept any circumstances.”
Carson says that the hardest part of being an astronaut will be to leave her family and friends for a long time. But when she is in space, she won't miss creature comforts — instead, she will miss the things that make the Earth, well, Earth. The touch and feel of the earth, the greenery, and water are her top picks.
But she is going to Mars in the hope of finding water there, too, and research new ways humans will be able to adapt on other planets.
“Going on Mars is going to be the first baby step. We’ll want to continue exploring, generations after me,” Carson says.
Carson, who also goes by the codename NASA Blueberry, began dreaming of visiting Mars at the young age of three. She was inspired by the animated series The Backyardigans, and their episode “Mission to Mars.”
“At first, it was just something I was interested in," she tells Inverse. "The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve learned the importance, the benefits of going on Mars, and developed a deeper passion," she says.
By the time she was 16, she had become the youngest person ever to graduate from an astronaut academy run by the non-profit organization Project PoSSUM. She is continuing to receive realistic space-survival training — as well as taking college-level academic classes about everything physics and space biology.
Not much fazes Carson.
“I think that as a first time astronaut, one of the most nerve wracking scenes for me is the first launch," she says. "It’s such a different feeling compared to being here on Earth, because of the power behind you, I’m pretty nervous about that."
But when Inverse asked her if she stressed about her expedition before going to bed. “Usually it’s homework that keeps me up at night,” Carson says, giggling.
Going to space comprises all the same challenges we face every day — there is just as much risk going down the street, she says. And if something were to go wrong, they would have a crew prepared to handle it.
“I don't necessarily have that many fears, they don't necessarily worry me. I accept the risk. When you’re applying to become an astronaut, you accept any circumstances.”
She is working on her astronaut resumé so she can enroll for the first expedition, whenever it may be. She predicts the trip will take approximately three years, but she hasn't practiced being in a confined space with a small crew for such a prolonged period of time.
Inverse first spoke to Carson about her ambitions in 2018. During that interview, her father, Bert Carson, said that he had talked her through these case scenarios several times — so she has an idea of what she is up against.
"It’s her dream and it’s her passion, and she’s gotten me to realize how important this is for us to take that baby step for the human race. I realize this is bigger than the two of us and that I have to let her go," he told Inverse at the time.
Alyssa Carson’s recommendations for your space travel
What songs will you take with you?
The teen says they’ll have the possibility of having some music, and she’ll be bringing with her Khalid, Post Malone, and some Dan + Shay. “I’ll want some more soulful music in there,” she says.
Favorite space movies?
Martian, Apollo 13, Contact … “Even though it’s more Sci-Fi”
Is there any specific space movie character you’d like to be?
“I wouldn't. I would rather stick to the realistic case of things, all these other movies had something go wrong.”