Q&A with Abigail "Astronaut Abby" Harrison

Today on the blog, we are excited to share our interview with Abigail Francis Harrison, or also known by her fans as Astronaut Abby!

 

KiraKira3D: Tell us a little about yourself, your dreams and aspirations, and The Mars Generation!

Abigail Francis Harrison: I am an aspiring astronaut and astrobiologist currently working as an intern in a Mars lab at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and junior at Wellesley College. I have wanted to be an astronaut since as young as I can remember and as I grew older and began to focus on my goal more with more intention, I gained tremendous support from my family and community.

At age 13 (2011), I got on Twitter to get a quote from a NASA employee for a school project and made a bold declaration on my Twitter biography that I had the goal to be the first astronaut to walk on Mars. The space community reacted with excitement that a leader in space exploration from my generation had emerged. I realized that I had a voice (even if it was small) to help educate and excite people about human space exploration. The need for the mass public to support human space exploration is essential to the future of space and funding needed to make human Mars exploration a reality. I began to share my own journey to Mars online. Launching a worldwide outreach program at such a young age was a turning point in my life. I began to speak publicly, do webchats with schools around the world, write for other publications and expand my reach.

At the age of 18, in 2015, with over 700,000 followers on social media and support from many people around the world I founded The Mars Generation with a board of astronauts, engineers, scientists and many other professionals. The Mars Generation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has a mission to excite young people and adults about human space exploration and STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) education and foster an understanding of the importance of these two elements to the future of humankind on Earth.

The Mars Generation runs programs that include an outreach program, leadership program, and Space Camp Scholarship program to help reach our mission and goals. In just 2 years, we have grown our online community to over one million followers and have an estimated reach of over 25 million people worldwide with our outreach work.   

 

KK3D: What initially sparked your interest in STEAM?

A: I have always been fascinated by the world around me from as young as I can remember. There is not one thing that sparked my interest, I have always been filled with wonder and excitement about how things work and why things are the way they are. I have had a very supportive family, with parents who always encouraged my inquisitive nature and supported my education.

KK3D: What is the best advice you can offer to young girls hoping to pursue a career in STEM?

A: The best advice I can give girls hoping to pursue a career in STEM is to be loud and be proud of your dreams. Talk about what it is you hope to accomplish and don’t be afraid to dream big and don’t limit yourself or what you believe you can accomplish. The only way people can support your dreams is if you talk about what it is you hope to accomplish. If you set a plan to reach your dreams with realistic and attainable goals people will listen and support you. You have to do the hard work, but that work becomes easier when you have a network of people willing to support your dreams.

KK3D: On your website, you touch on the best piece of advice you have ever received. Would you mind sharing that with us?

A: The best advice I ever received was from my mentor, Astronaut Luca Parmitano when he told me to follow my passions in my studies and not to focus on what I thought NASA was looking for in astronaut candidates. That what NASA is really looking for is people who are passionate about what they do. This advice has been something I have carried forth in all my education decisions and has been essential to me creating a path that is true to my own passions.

KK3D: What helps to keep you motivated?

A: There are three things that keep me motivated. First I have a written plan that helps guide my decisions every day. This plan is flexible and changes as my life and goals change, but it is always present. It includes short-term and long-term goals and this is what I focus on when making decisions and/or things get tough. Having a road map is essential to reaching any dream, but especially when your dreams are big.

The second thing that keeps me motivated is the people in my life. From my family, friends, and colleagues to all the amazing people online who are supporting my own dreams and goals – the people in my life who support and love me are huge factors in keeping me motivated.

Finally, I am motivated by giving back to the world. First through my worldwide outreach program and now through The Mars Generation, being able to inspire and encourage others to reach for their dreams is something that I am constantly motivated by. I am also motivated by meeting and hearing stories of what other people are doing to reach their dreams. This is a huge perk of running a nonprofit with such a huge reach.

KK3D: What is your greatest accomplishment and how did you achieve it?

A: I have had many milestones in my life and each has been monumental to my next steps towards my own goals and dreams. To pick one accomplishment as being greater than another would be to minimize the other accomplishments. I am proud of everything I have achieved. The formula for my accomplishments is the same regardless of what the accomplishment is: talk about my goals and dreams and what I am working towards, make a plan that is realistic and outlines the steps to achieving my goal and then working hard every day to make it a reality.

KK3D: How can girls inspired by your mission get more involved with The Mars Generation?

A: There are many ways to get involved with The Mars Generation. The best way to get involved is to go to our website and check out our different programs and find the program(s) that are a good fit for the individual. Our Student Space Ambassador Leadership program is a good first step to getting involved and it is free and very inspirational. You can learn about our programs here: http://www.themarsgeneration.org/programs/

 

KiraKira3D recently released a first of its kind “3D modeling mobile experience” KiraKira3D iOS this summer.  Check it out here!