Abigail Harrison “Astronaut Abby” is a girl with a big dream and the initiative to make those dreams happen. Ever since she was a little girl Abby has dreamed of being an astronaut. She is documenting her journey toward that goal over at Astronaut Abby. When I came across her website I was so impressed by her accomplishments so far and how she is going after her goals with a passion right now rather than waiting until she is older.
Me: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Abby: I am a 16 year old aspiring astronaut. My goal is to be the first astronaut to Mars. I have loved space and science since I was a very young child and my desire to be an astronaut grew around age 6 or 7. I have been fortunate to participate in several top STEM ( science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs which have helped to continue my passion towards space and science. My desire for several years was to share what I was learning and excite kids around the world about STEM and space. When I was invited to the Soyuz launch last May that became the opportunity.
Me: I read on your site that you were chosen to participate in GEMS when you were in 5th grade. How much did that influence your desire to go into space and make that desire seem more of a possibility?
Abby: GEMS was definitely a major influence in my desire to go to space. Joining that after school program was my first experience with structured science. Not only did I learn pure science and engineering- how to solder, build rockets, program robots, etc, but I also learned how to think like a scientist, which is an invaluable skill. We met twice a week and worked on all types of scientific projects – very hands on. One special thing about our group was that some of us earned the opportunity to win a trip to Costa Rica. Going on that trip really meant a lot to me and I now go back and mentor other girls who are in GEMS.
Me: When and why did you start your website? Did you build/design it yourself?
Abby: I started my website in 8th grade, as a supplement to an extra-curricular history project. I had chosen to do History Day, which is a national competition for history projects (similar to the science fair). As a way to connect my interest for history to my passion to learn more about space I chose to do my project on the International Space Station. I did a board, but got so involved that I also created a scale model of the ISS and a website with supplementary information. I created my website with the help of my tech savvy mother.
Me: Can you tell me more about your Soyuz adventure?
Abby: It was amazing! To go to Russia was such a different experience! Going to the launch itself was just crazy! It is so different than the way they do things here. You are SO much closer to the rocket when it goes off – and knowing the people on board? Amazing! It really effects you in ways that I didn’t imagine. Since I had the opportunity to see the launch I realized that I had the chance and the responsibility to share what I saw and learned.
Me: Do you look at your website as a business?
Abby: No, I don’t look at it like a business. I look at it as tool to help deliver my message to kids and adults.
Me: How often do you post new content on your site?
Abby: 2-5 times per week, it really depends on what I have going on. Sometimes it’s multiple times per day.
Me: Do you believe that it is helping you achieve your goal of going into space?
Abby: Yes, my website and social media work as well as my outreach program are helping me achieve my goal of being the first astronaut to Mars. Everyday I am inspired by the work I am doing to inspire others to be excited about STEM and space and everyday people inspire me with their messages of encouragement to reach for the stars. It is a win win as I get to increase people’s awareness of deep space exploration and excite kids and adults about STEM and space while also having these same people inspire and motivate me.
Me: How have your parents helped you – with your website and your dreams to become an astronaut?
Abby: My parents are very supportive of my goals and dreams. I am fortunate as my mom helps me whenever I need it with technical aspects of my website as well as design and management. My first website was a simple blog with a logo and 3 pages, but has grown as my online presence and outreach has grown. I now have a web designer/developer and graphic designer who are sponsors and assist when I need to make bigger changes to the website. The current design is due to their assistance and I am very grateful for the help.
Me: What are your college plans? How do you plan to pay for school?
Abby: I plan on either attending the Air Force or Naval Academy or a 4 year year University. I will study biology and geology and eventually obtain a PhD with a goal of being a scientist. I will pay for school through scholarships and help from my family. I work very hard in school to get good grades to ensure I will qualify for scholarships.
Me: If you are successful in attending the Air Force Academy, what type of training and further education will you need in order to become an astronaut?
Abby: The requirements to be an astronaut are actually very modest- general fitness, a four year degree in science, etc. However, the requirements and the reality is very different. I will be competing against thousands of other Americans for limited spots. This means that I will have to be the best at what I do, the best in my field.
Me: Can you give us your best money saving tip for teens?
Abby: My best tip actually has more to do with spending than with saving. Don’t be afraid to spend money, just be sure you’ve thought it through. Don’t just spend money on lunch every day, or on new clothes all the time, items that don’t last long. I would recommend saving your money and then spending it on larger items (such as a camp, car, or college) that will either last longer, or leave you with memories.
(Abby and I are both dual enrolling this year for high school and college credit which is a huge money saver!)
Me: How do you earn extra money? How do you budget your money?
Abby: I do a LOT of babysitting. That is my main source of income. I am generally very careful with my money and I save my money – in fact I save almost 2/3rds of everything that I make. I have done that ever since I was a little girl even with just my allowance. I take the rest and do whatever I want with it. I think that I have a good balance of saving and spending.
Me: How can people keep up with what is happening with you?
Abby: There are multiple ways to stay up to date with what I am doing including, TWITTER, G+, EMAIL UPDATES and FACEBOOK as well as checking out my WEBSITE. Email or Facebook are the two best methods though as both are updated regularly.
Me: Thanks so much for taking time with me for the interview Abby. I cannot wait to see how things go for you in the coming years and I will definitely be cheering you on when you go to Mars!!!
I had a great time talking with Abby. It was encouraging to me to hear her talk about how she earns extra money. It might be easy for someone as smart and aspiring as Abby to see babysitting as beneath them – but she doesn’t look at life like that at all. She is doing what is available to her and what works for her schedule. I hope that you will go and support her by following her on all of her social media accounts and sign up for her email updates! You can contact her directly on her website if you want to schedule her to speak to your class or group about anything space related!