Future Mars Walker Moving to Mars

Q&A with Alyssa Carson

Born and based in Louisiana, 18-year-old Alyssa Carson is likely to be one of the first few people to go to Mars in the early 2030s. Carson enrolled in the Advanced Possum Academy in October 2016 when she was just 15 years of age, graduating and becoming certified to go to space— making her the world’s youngest astronaut in training. She has attended all of NASA’s 19 space camps and is the only person in the world who completed the NASA passport programme, having visited all sites.

To mark the Moving to Mars exhibition, the Design Museum caught up with Alyssa to find out more about her inspiring story.


Q:You might be the first human to set foot on Mars in 2033. How does it feel to be part of something so special?

Alyssa: I have always had an interest in space and to be able to work towards something I love is amazing. I would love to be able to make an impact as big as doing scientific research on Mars. Just knowing that there is a chance of that becoming a reality excites and motivates me to continue working towards it.

Q: When did your obsession with space begin? Is it true that a certain cartoon show first inspired you?

Alyssa: I first got interested in space when I was around three or so. My best guess as to what sparked my interest is the cartoon 'The Backyardigans'. The show has these friends who go on imaginary adventures in every episode and one of the episodes was a mission to Mars. I had the poster for that particular episode hung in my bedroom for years. My dad remembers me coming and asking a bunch of questions about space and Mars. From that moment my passion for space never faded.

Q: You are one of 17 ambassadors representing MarsOne that has a mission of establishing a human settlement on Mars. How do you envision a human colony on the red planet? Is there research from the Mars mission that could benefit Earth?

Alyssa: Building a colony on Mars will help humans in understanding our capabilities of venturing to other planets. Mars is the first baby step in future and further space exploration. Life there is going to be very different. You would have to put on an entire space suit to even walk out the front door. However, the resources or findings could be beneficial to our planet Earth. Whether it is bringing things back to Earth or creating a second home for future generations.

Q: What was it like meeting veteran astronaut Sandra Magnus? Did she give you any memorable advice?

Alyssa: Sandra Magnus was a huge inspiration for me and taught me that it didn't matter how young I was. I realised that I could still have my dream, work hard, and one day it could become a reality. From the moment I met her, I was inspired to continue pursuing my dream.

Q:You are the first person in history to attend all three NASA space camps. What are they like?

Alyssa: All of the NASA space camps are a lot of fun. You are able to be with other kids who have a similar interest as you and learn all about space travel. While at the camps you build your own rocket, ride simulators, reenact realistic missions, and much more. The camp really makes you feel like you are being an astronaut for a week. I also love that you don't have to want to be an astronaut to go. It is a perfect place for any space lover.

Q: What have you been doing to prepare and train yourself for life on Mars?

Alyssa: I have been doing anything that I believe could help my resume in the future for when I apply. So far I have gotten my scuba certification, pilots certification, completed water survival, micro gravity flights, g force training, decompression training, and multiple space classes. I plan to continue doing as much as I can while continuing through school.

Q: We have seen online that you will be 32 years old when you go to Mars, but are there plans to get you out to space much earlier?

Alyssa: The current plan is start sending humans to Mars in the early 2030s. I do not plan to make any long term trips to space before that however I would be up for some short term flights. This could consist of suborbital research flights. The only reasons I wouldn't plan to go to the International Space Station beforehand is because I wouldn't want to put the pressures on my body before the mission to Mars. Being in space weakens your muscles and causes bone density loss.

Q: What is your average day at school like? Is it true that you learn subjects in four different languages?

Alyssa: My high school was an international immersion school. This means that since kindergarten I learned all of my subjects in four different languages which were English, French, Spanish, and Mandarin. A normal day for me was just like any other teenager going to school consisting of classes and homework. Some days I had to travel for training or speaking but for the most part I tried to stay in school as much as possible.

Q: What advice do you have for the future Mars Generation?

Alyssa: I would tell anyone to follow their dreams no matter who they are. I know that at three saying I wanted to be an astronaut and go to Mars was the craziest dream I could have picked, but it is becoming more and more of a reality. It is important to work hard after your dreams and talk about them because you never know where opportunities might be. So follow your dreams and never let anyone take your dreams away from you.


Q: If you could pick only one book, one film and one song to bring with you to Mars – what would it be?

Book: The Martian or The Great Gatsby
Film: 50 First Dates
Song: Anything by Khalid

Q: If you could design one thing to help you during life on Mars, what would it be?

Alyssa: Faster communication between Earth and Mars. Currently it takes on average 15 minutes for messages to travel from Earth to Mars. Having faster communications would help with problems that we might face and better communication with loved ones.

Q: You can take only three people with you to Mars. Who would you take?

Alyssa: I would take Elon Musk, my dad, and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Q: If the mission to Mars was only a one-way trip – what would you miss the most from Earth?

Alyssa: I would of course miss all of my friends and family the most, but other than that I would miss the feeling of Earth's nature. The feeling of being able to go outside and smell the fresh air and see trees, water, and wildlife.

Q: We all know what Neil Armstrong’s first words were when he landed on the moon. What would be yours when you land on Mars?

Alyssa: I do not know yet what I would like to say. It seems like a lot of pressure to come up with something that will be so momentous. I definitely am a maths and science person so luckily I still have some time to get my wording right!

Related exhibition

Moving to Mars

The journey to the Red Planet has become one of the great challenges of our time. Through immersive recreations and new commissions, discover how every detail of this extraordinary mission must be designed.