Who: Abigail Harrison, aka Astronaut Abby: I am a student – finishing up my undergraduate degree at Wellesley College; a scientist – a research astrobiologist; a dreamer – I aspire to be an astronaut and the first astronaut on Mars; the president of The Mars Generation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit; a public figure and an influencer with 1 million followers on social media; and a public speaker.
What: My job is multifaceted. As a public figure, I work to share my journey towards becoming an astronaut through social media. I try to use these platforms and my social capital on them to influence positive change in the world. As the president of The Mars Generation, I attend board meetings, represent The Mars Generation at conferences and events around the world, promote The Mars Generation through news and media and oversee nonprofit operations. As an influencer, I attend events, speak at conferences, appear as a brand ambassador in advertisements, etc. 100% of the fees/proceeds of my work as Astronaut Abby is donated to The Mars Generation to support all of the important STEM outreach work the organisation does. I am the only influencer (that I know of) that donates 100% of his/her earnings to a nonprofit.
Where: [I work] Everywhere! I’m physically located out of Wellesley College, but my work as a public speaker and influencer leads me to travel all over the world. This means that sometimes I get to work at my dorm or school library and other times I’m flying red-eyes and working on airplanes and in airports. The Mars Generation does a lot in the digital sphere, which is great because it allows for this kind of flexibility and also allows us to impact people all over the world.
Why: I’ve received a lot of help and inspiration over the years, which have allowed me to continue to chase my own huge dream. I want to make these same advantages available to people all over the world. I believe that if we want our future to be better, we need to be investing in youth now. If we truly want to become The Mars Generation – a generation capable of the cohesion and technology necessary to accomplish such an incredible feat as landing humans on Mars – we have to be inspiring and educating young people today. Today’s youth will become tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, mathematicians, musicians, publicists, teachers, politicians and so much more, but only if we help them get there.
When: My work hours tend to be pretty unpredictable. As a student, my schedule changes every semester, so the time I have for non-school work also shifts. Additionally, the amount and location of my work for The Mars Generation shifts drastically and quickly depending on the demands for appearances by brands and other events.
Astronaut Abby Speaking | Image courtesy of Abigail Harrison
Best part about the job: The satisfaction of knowing I’m making a difference in the world. It’s incredible to see the impact that The Mars Generation has had on young people. I especially love getting to speak in classrooms/schools and seeing how excited young people are about their futures.
Biggest challenge: Personally, my biggest challenge is definitely time management. Because I wear so many hats – student, athlete, influencer, nonprofit president, public figure, aspiring astronaut – I usually have a lot on my plate and everything is important in a different way. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide what is most important or what needs to be done first.
As an organisation, our biggest challenge is definitely funding. We’re young, completely grassroots and, as of now, completely volunteer-driven. In order to continue growing and making bigger changes in the world, we need to become sustainable and sustainability means consistent income.
Thing that keeps you up at night: Global climate change.
Vision for the future: Ideally, I’d like to see two things in the future. First, I want humanity to continue to advance in space exploration. I hope to see my generation walk on the surface of Mars and then do even more. Second, I want to see an increase in access to education. This includes both increased opportunity for education and resources and increases in inspiring people to take an interest in pursuing education.