Astronaut Abby’s Journey to Mars
Photo: Abigail Harrison ’19 is welcomed to the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre by Assistant Director General Mona Al Qemzi
• Ride in a Mars space rover at NASA’s Houston Space Center: check.
• Attend a private screening of Hidden Figures at the White House at the invitation of First Lady Michelle Obama: check.
• Experience the 2G and OG pressure that simulate weightlessness while taking flight lessons: check.
• Launch a science show on the YouTube channel hosted by the nonprofit organization you created: check.
• Scuba dive in Fujairah to prepare for elevating PADI Rescue Diver certification to Dive Master status: check.
What may read as a lifetime bucket list to some are all experiences that Abigail Harrison ’19, aka Astronaut Abby, has logged within the last two months alone.
Harrison has wanted to be an astronaut for as long as she can remember, and she aspires to be the first person to walk on Mars. As she works toward that goal, she inspires others to appreciate and explore science as “an international ambassador for science and space exploration.”
During her first year at Wellesley, Harrison started a nonprofit organization called The Mars Generation, whose mission is to excite young people about STEM/STEAM study and space exploration. In November, she was named to the Huffington Post’s list of 20 Under 20: The Next Generation of STEAM Pioneers, which identifies “the next generation of the best and brightest innovators.”
In choosing what colleges would best prepare her to achieve her goals, Harrison initially considered only top-rated technical schools. Ultimately, she turned her attention to the liberal arts because by “engaging in a wide variety of subjects, the liberal arts teach us to look at things from multiple angles. I know that this will improve my abilities as a scientist, science communicator, and explorer.” She chose Wellesley because she was attracted by the observatory, the diving team, the language departments, and “most importantly,” she said, “the idea that this was a place where I would be supported and encouraged by peers and staff in a career field which has historically been dominated by men.”
The most recent stop on her journey toward Mars was the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At the invitation of The UAE Space Agency, Harrison traveled to Dubai in January to tour the Emirates Mars Mission and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), and to participate in the MBRSC Project Space program. The MBRSC holds the Hope Probe, currently in the manufacturing stages, which it plans to launch on a journey to Mars in 2020.
The Daily Shot caught up with Harrison on her return to campus for spring classes, and asked her to share a few photos from her travel journal.