Ever since man went to the moon – and, tempting as it is, let’s not start questioning whether it was all one big conspiracy and we didn’t actually go there – thoughts and plans of reaching Mars have been in the minds of wannabe space explorers (and real ones).
While Venus is actually the closest planet in our solar system to the Earth, Mars seems to be a much more hospitable environment for when humans eventually begin to settle on that planet and begin a whole new chapter of life as we know it.
That might seem like something straight out of a science fiction flick, but the reality is actually closer than we think. Well, maybe not for colonisaton of the planet – although that’s something Elon Musk is actively working on – but in terms of actually setting foot on the planet, we’re getting ever closer.
In fact,17-year-olf Alyssa Carson from Hammond, Louisiana, wants to be on the first human mission to the red planet. Born in 2001 – which makes us feel very, very old – the astronaut-in-training has wanted to travel to Mars since she was three.
Now, if most of us told our parent we wanted to check out a previously unexplored planet that, at the closest possible point, would be 33.9 million miles (or 54.6 million kilometers) from Earth, they’d probably tell us to go start a punk band.
But not Alyssa’s parents. In fact, her father enrolled her at Space Camp in Alabama – now the only one left in the USA – in 2008, and she’s since attended several times. She’s also headed to Space Camp in Laval, Quebec and Izmir, Turkey, making her the first person to attend all three NASA Space Camps.
Having mastered the basic of space and robotics, Alyssa, who has even built her own rockets, is raring to go, and has already been on simulated missions as an astronaut. Her NASA codename is Blueberry, hence the Instagram handle.
She has a while to wait before she makes it there, however – their mission to Mars won’t take place until 2033, which is when the technology will apparently be ready and by which time she’ll be 32 years old.
However, if Musk’s SpaceX or MarsOne – the two private companies that have their sights set on Mars – manage to get their first, she could well become the first teenager in space. SpaceX have ambitions to reach Mars in 2019. That next year. Which is fucking crazy.
Her obsession with the planet came from an episode of The Backyardigans in which five animal friends go on an imaginary adventure to Mars.
“I thought, ‘This red planet is so cool’,” she told a Teen Magazine
“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.” It all adds a whole other dimension to the phrase ‘Watch this space’, doesn’t it?