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Among the stars

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | December 5, 2020 1:00 AM

Shooting for the moon and landing among the stars isn’t enough for Alyssa Carson.

The 19-year-old has her eyes on an even bigger prize — Mars.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always just really been interested in space,” Carson said. “Mars kind of jumped out at me when I was pretty young. My dad remembers a lot more than I do from when I was that age, but he remembers me coming and asking questions about Mars, if people had been there before."

Carson — call sign "Blueberry" — is a space enthusiast and an astrobiology student at the Florida Institute of Technology. She was keynote speaker during a virtual fireside chat Wednesday morning, alongside her father and greatest advocate, Bert Carson. Both participated from Baton Rouge.

“I was just instantly curious with space and wanting to learn more,” Alyssa said. “Looking back, our best guess as to what sparked it is an episode of ‘The Backyardigans,’ which is just a cartoon I used to watch. I used to have a poster of the mission to Mars episode.

“My passion for it just grew ever since then,” she said.

Bert recalled his daughter beginning to ask about space at age 3.

“She could spot a space book across the bookstore, several hundred feet,” he said. “She just was all consumed in it.”

He shared how he remembers her studying a Mars map when she was 6.

"She said, ‘Daddy, when we go to Mars, we’re going to be bouncing across the planet as we land, so I need to study the map in case we get lost so I know where we are,’ he said. "And I thought, ‘You know, that’s just not normal for a 6-year-old to be thinking like that.’”

For still being a teen, Alyssa has an impressive portfolio.

When she was just 7, she attended her first space camp and went on to complete six more space camps, including those offered in Turkey and Canada. To date, she's the only person in the world who has completed every available space camp.

At 15, she participated in the Project Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere, known as the Advanced POSSUM Space Academy. At 16, she became the youngest person to complete the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission’s Space Camp Program. At 18, she earned her pilot's license.

Her training includes water survival, G-Force training, microgravity flights, scuba certification and decompression training.

She shared some thoughts for youths considering careers in space.

"If you are interested in eventually becoming an astronaut, really, that is a very long-term goal, there's definitely a lot of steps that go into play before that, so definitely set yourself a goal," she said. "There's so many different areas to go into."

The fireside chat was presented by the Innovation Collective in downtown Coeur d'Alene as well as the Innovare Advancement Center and nonprofit technology consulting company NYSTEC out of Rome, N.Y.

photo

Screenshot via YouTube

Bert Carson, father of space enthusiast and astrobiology student Alyssa Carson, spoke to audiences during a virtual fireside chat Wednesday morning. "No matter what your kid wants to go into you should support it,” he said.