Abigail Harrison, an enterprising 18-year-old from Minneapolis whose goal is to be the first astronaut to Mars, this month has landed at Wellesley College as a first-year student.
I can already detect the sound of Wellesley STEM Expo organizers beating a path to Astronaut Abby‘s dorm.
In a short number of years, this Space Camp veteran has made quite a name for herself on behalf of “the Mars Generation.” Harrison has befriended astronauts, toured dozens of space-related facilities, been interviewed by numerous publications and attended a couple of space craft launches, including one in Kazakhstan two years ago. She has spread her message of dreaming big and loving STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) at 30-plus schools, encouraging kids to get excited about science and nudging adults to fund STEM programs. You can also check out her inspirational TEDx talk delivered in Tampa at the age of 16 in the video at bottom of this post and view her recent web interview with Andy Weir, author of The Martian book that’s being converted into a Matt Damon-led movie.
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Astronaut Abby is also a tireless social media participant, and has been sharing her start at Wellesley College via her blog and with her nearly 21K Instagram followers and almost 45K Twitter followers (#MarsorBust2030).
So yes, before zooming off to the Red Planet, Harrison is making an extended pit stop on the Yellow Planet (the official color for the Wellesley College class of 2019).
Harrison has already taken a bunch of science courses at the University of Minnesota via a dual-credit program through Minneapolis Public Schools, and plans to expand her knowledge at Wellesley College, likely studying Microbiology and/or Astrophysics, along with a minor in Chinese. While focused on the sciences, she likes the idea of being at a liberal arts school so that she’s surrounded by people with many different interests.
Though Harrison also appreciates the fact that Wellesley College has faculty and graduates who are or have been active with NASA and/or Mars research, and she hopes one day to meet Pamela Melroy, a 1983 grad who went on to become a space shuttle commander.
Wellesley College’s Whitin Observatory was also a big draw: “I plan to spend a lot of time there these next four years. I grew up in Minneapolis, so even though the stars have always fascinated me, I have not had the best vantage point. Now I get to see the stars close up and I can’t wait!”