A sought-after STEM influencer and non-profit Founder, she is better known on the internet as Astronaut Abby (Abigail “Abby” Harrison), an aspiring and inspiring astronaut working towards a mission to be the first astronaut to walk on Mars.
In documenting her journey, she has amassed more than a million followers, and now as an influencer (who donates all her influencer earnings to charity), she provides unique insight into what it’s like to strive daily towards a career as an astronaut. Plus, did we mention? She sends underprivileged kids to space camp!
While there has been progress made, it’s a fairly well-known fact that women are still underrepresented in the worlds of science, technology, engineering, and math. Women fill only 25% of computer science jobs even though the number of computing jobs has increased. Women only represent 16% of the engineering workforce, make up 47% of science fields relating to humans, animals and plants, and fill 46% of the jobs in math, like accounting, finance, economics. That is why Abby wants to raise awareness and encourage more girls to pursue their love of science, engineering and math. It is crucial for boys and girls to see a girl rock it in STEM. With Abby it is also important to talk about failing and her failures. #FailureIsTheOnlyOption is a message Abby shares to show that you should always be willing to try even if you do fail because failure leads to success.
The dedication and preparation for this space journey is no small feat and one thing you’ll know for sure, especially after watching Abby’s inspiring TED TALK, this girl is unstoppable. In the pursuit of becoming an astronaut Abby has devoted herself to personal development as a pilot, scuba diver, sky diver, marathoner, research astrobiologist, student of Russian and Mandarin Chinese, and science communicator. Beyond a personal aspiration, Abigail has leveraged her passion to excite and inspire other young people about STEM and space through talks, appearances and her online YOU TUBE series #AskAbby Space and Science Show”. Through her dedication she has founded with the support of an advisory board that includes astronauts, engineers and many other space professionals, The Mars Generation (TMG), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. TMG focuses on exciting and inspiring young people about STEM and space and then supporting them to go after careers in those fields.
Abby’s online journey as Astronaut Abby began at the young age of 13 (in 2011) when Abby setup a Twitter account under “AstronautAbby” in search of a quote from a NASA employee for a school project. This simple action eventually led to Abby to where she is now. This school project research led to Abby meeting Astronaut Luca Parmitano (who then offered to mentor her) and two years later attending his first launch to the International Space Station in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Luca’s invite was the catalyst that led Abby to crowdfund online with the hope to start a six-month outreach program to work as Luca’s Earth Liaison, sharing his experience in space on earth. Abby’s outreach program raised $40,000 to support the program. After those first six months, she continued with funding from her single mother until the age of 18. She now continues with TMG which has an impressive board of advisors including astronauts, engineers, lawyers and an array of other business professionals. This non-profit is funded by private donations, corporate sponsors and of special note – approx. 50% of its funding comes directly from Abby donating 100% of her earnings as a STEM influencer.
In its fourth year, her nonprofit has more than 1,800 students worldwide participating in an innovative Student Space Ambassador Leadership program which provides resources and mentorship to allow young people to share their love of STEM and space with their local communities.
Through the funds raised, Abigail and TMG have sent 44 youths (to date as of summer 2019) experiencing poverty on full scholarship (including transportation) to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Her leadership and community-building efforts have motivated others to pursue education and careers in STEM. And, maybe more importantly, to support and encourage young people and their families who are the most underrepresented in the areas of science and space.
She will graduate from Wellesley College in 2019 with degrees in Astrobiology and Russian and plans to pursue a PhD. She continues her work as an active astrobiology researcher, begun during her Mars lab internship at the Kennedy Space Center Space Life Sciences Labs.