An Out Of This World Dream
Gallery: Alyssa Carson Visits New Iberia Schools [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
Alyssa Carson Visits New Iberia Schools
By Shanna Perkins
Judging by her ponytail, high energy and big dreams, Alyssa Carson seems like any normal 15-year-old girl. But she isn’t simply reaching for the stars, she’s reaching far beyond that. She has plans in motion to be on the mission to Mars in 2033. Alyssa recently stopped at St. Edward School, North Lewis Elementary School and Catholic High to share with students, not much younger than her, how she’s making her dreams a reality.
Alyssa, a Baton Rouge native, first became interested in space when she was 3 years old. When the characters on her favorite show “The Backyardigans” went on an imaginary mission to Mars, she began asking her dad endless questions about space. They questions went beyond the normal incessant interrogation of a 3 year old. Instead of her interest waning, it only grew. When she was 7 years old, she attended Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. Today, she’s attended that same camp a total of 17 times.
“I want to be on the mission to Mars in 2033,” she says confidently. “I will be 32 years old then. When I first tell people that I’m going to Mars, they don’t believe me, but most people don’t believe humans are going to Mars at all. That’s another reason I’m so passionate about telling people about my mission. Once people hear me explain everything, they don’t doubt me anymore.”
Alyssa, who wears a blue flight suit freckled in patches representing her various travels and accomplishments, doesn’t simply hope to be an astronaut when she grows up, she’s training to go to Mars the same way young athletes train their entire lives to compete in the Olympics. She has an advanced scuba diving certification, because being under water is the closest experience humans can have to microgravity. She’s also working on her pilot’s license and as soon as that’s complete, she plans to get her sky diving license. Alyssa was recently the youngest person to attend and graduate from the Possum Academy in Daytona, Fla., a g-force and hypoxia training camp. This summer, she plans to go on a high altitude mission in northern Canada. Travel is a large part of Alyssa’s work.
“I’ve been to 16 countries,” she states modestly. “The U.S., Canada, 12 countries within Europe and South Korea. I’ve also been to the Korean DMZ, demilitarized zone, and at one point they tell you that you’re in North Korea, so I’m counting that.”
Alyssa has a very specific role she wants to fill on the mission. She wants to be a mission specialist, meaning she would be doing the experiments and monitoring the science that goes into exploring the planet. To do this, she would attend college to study astrobiology, which requires extensive research in biology, geology and astrophysics. But until then, she has a mission a little more down to earth. And that’s exactly what brought her to New Iberia.
“Ever since I started this, I wanted other kids to have the same opportunities – to be able to find their dreams and pursue them and never give up on that,” Alyssa explains.
As she walks around the St. Edward’s auditorium, Alyssa has her audience captivated. The students sing a chorus of “wow”s as she shares her out-of-this- world knowledge. She fields questions ranging from “Have they ever sent an alligator to space?” to “How do they go to the bathroom in space?” When she announces that her time with the students is almost over, nearly every hand in the audience shoots into the air (each one trying to reach a fingertip above their neighbor’s raised hand.)
“I thought it was very cool,” 8-year-old Isabella Lamperez says slowly and genuinely. “She told us that they sent spiders to space. That was the craziest thing that I learned.”
Isabella confesses that while she once dreamed of being a teacher, a career in space has suddenly started to pique her interest. While Isabella admits that she is slightly clumsy, and doesn’t know how well that would work in space, Alyssa made her believe, more than ever, that she truly could be an astronaut. She says she imagines going into space would be similar to riding a very fast roller coaster.
Nine-year-old Madison Lewis isn’t so keen on the idea of going to space – airplane take offs have made her quite sure that’s as high as she ever intends to travel. She did have another take away from Alyssa’s presentation.
“I learned to never give up,” Madison reasons. “I take dancing, and I really want to be a professional ballerina. She said to find what you want to do and never give up. You keep trying to get there. My mom always tells me the same thing.”
“Yeah, you never give up,” Isabella chimes in.
Alyssa has a lot work to do before 2033. The short range includes more camps, high altitude missions and adding Russian to the four languages she already speaks. The long term is much more complex, but no less achievable. She’s accomplishing another goal each time she steps in front of an audience, to inspire children, and adults, to follow their dreams. She certainly left behind a trail of starry-eyed students in New Iberia.
“Of course, I want people to know about the mission to Mars and that we have to push further into space exploration,” Alyssa concludes. “But, I also want kids and adults to find their dreams and never give up on them. Never let anyone take that away from you.”