Abigail Harrison AKA Astronaut Abby, Founder of The Mars Generation – Ep. 68

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About Abigail Harrison:

Abigail Harrison goes by Astronaut Abby, and her mission is to be the first person ever on Mars. Learn how she’s impacting millions with her goal.

On this show, we seek to radically expand our concept of what it means to live life to the fullest, and the goal is to help us all redefine what success means. Astronaut Abby will surely accomplish this task, as she’s one of the most remarkable people you’re likely to meet. Abigail Harrison set a goal at a very young age to be the first person ever to set foot on Mars. Her path has led her to becoming a major advocate for STEM and particularly STEM education for girls and marginalized groups—people historically left out of the space conversation.

Now she has an audience in the millions, she’s been named Forbes 30 Under 30, she’s spoken at TED and worked at Harvard. In short, she’s a powerhouse.

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2:35 – “It’s been a couple of decades that I’ve been working towards this. And at the beginning, that was my big dream, and my guiding star was to be an astronaut and to someday walk on the surface of Mars. Along the way, though, I was really fortunate to have discovered another dream and another life’s passion [education].”

4:57 – “Having this social media has not only allowed me to create this huge community where I’m increasing representation of women in STEM, but it’s also allowed me to fund The Mars Generation, the non-profit. A large portion of our funding actually comes from engagement work that I do, either speaking at conferences and then I donate 100% of the honorariums to The Mars Generation or the sales from my book or occasionally Instagram partnerships with brands that I believe in 100% of everything I’ve ever made through that social media side of things and everything has gone to The Mars Generation.”

8:40 – “I’m also pretty lucky to be a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. And so when it comes to things that are scary, I’m able to pretty easily take that emotion and try and swap it for excitement or something like that instead.”

9:57 – “We have to be putting ourselves in these really difficult, really uncomfortable situations and then say, How are we going to get out of this? How are we going to make this impossible situation possible? And when we do that, we then start to see heaps and heaps of oodles of benefits that come back to us here on Earth.”

12:55 – “My initial exposure and where this dream really originated from was actually just standing outside one night my family was back porch, looking up at the stars, and having all of these huge questions that were going through.”

21:35 – “…the way that I try to go about this is by meeting people where they’re at. So we have to have compassionate, empathetic science communication instead of judgmental science communication. We can’t look at a population of people and blame them for not understanding science or not trusting science, or not knowing certain things. We have to instead look at them and say, ‘Hey, that’s OK, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to we’re going to figure it out together. We’re going to learn about this together. We’re going to spend time covering all of these basics that we can then talk about the bigger picture.'”

26:26 – “I applied to the astronaut program… I’m also a licensed pilot and I’m currently working on my instrument rating, which is the next step that a pilot can take. I’m an advanced scuba diver and a rescue diver, so I do a lot of scuba diving. I have studied Russian and Mandarin Chinese to hopefully be able to participate in international collaborative missions in the future. I am a skydiver and marathon runner and I currently getting my license just in case there’s any medical emergencies in space and a whole list of other things that I’m planning to do in the future.”

29:09 – “The Mars Generation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that focuses on a couple of things: One of our main focuses is exposing the public to science and space. And then our second big initiative is to provide concrete and realistic opportunities and resources for young people today to become the change-makers of tomorrow.”

29:33 – “When I was 16 years old, I was invited by an astronaut who had been mentoring me to come watch his launch to the International Space Station from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. And I realized when I got that invitation that this was an opportunity to do something bigger, to make a bigger impact instead of just me going and watching this launch and being like, Oh, wow, wasn’t that so cool?”

32:53 – “The very beginning of that story is that I met astronaut Luca when I was 13 years old by randomly bumping into them in an airport security line. And that was really the snowball that started all of all of this.”

34:38 – “Now, when I started the March generation, I thought to myself, Would it be so incredible if we could give away even one scholarship to space camp. Just one? Yeah. And now, 10 years after I received the scholarship to Space Camp, we’ve given away more than 50 scholarships for students without financial resources.”

38:21 – “I think that when we think about the future, especially for my generation and the next generation, we should be worried. And we should be anxious, and we should actually be really scared also. And I’m a pretty positive person. You might have noticed by now that I’m a glass half full optimist. So when I’m sitting here telling you we need to be afraid, that’s because we really do. And one of the reasons that I’m not just giving up and throwing in the towel and saying, ‘Oh, well that’s it then’, is because I think that we still have the ability to turn this thing around. We have the ability. Every problem that we are facing in the next couple of decades, we can handle, we can manage. But the only way that we can do that is just everyone is involved and everyone has access and opportunity.”

42:07 – “[I was told by an elderly man] you shouldn’t bother trying to become a pilot because in a couple of years you’ll have babies and settle down with family and you won’t want to go to space or fly airplanes anymore. So you shouldn’t even bother.”

44:42 – “If I have something that I want to talk about, I’m going to talk about it. Like if I wanted to talk about women in STEM or equal access and representation, you better believe that I’m not going to spare anyone because it’s uncomfortable to talk about.”

50:59 – “One of the things that I’ve had to learn about putting together plans and expectations is that if you follow them rigidly, you will fail. Even if you achieve your goal, tt that point, you will have failed in the long run because you’re not living life. And so that’s what I learned is that you can have a plan. It’s important to have a plan, to have goals, and have intermediary steps before your big goals as well. But you have to then look at that with a sense of fluidity and the ability to adapt and to change.”

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