MINNEAPOLIS - A Minneapolis teen known as Astronaut Abby will get the chance to witness a Russian spacecraft launch to the International Space Station this spring.
Abby Harrison, 15, a sophomore at South High in Minneapolis and an aspiring astronaut, will travel to Russia and Kazakhstan in late May when three astronauts head to the International Space Station.
The trio includes Vinning, Minn. native Karen Nyberg, of NASA, Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Luca Parmitano, an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency. They will launch from Kazakhstan May 28 aboard a Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft for Expeditions 36-37, conducting scientic research during the six month mission.
"I'd been saying I wanted to be an astronaut since I was a kid for years, but it is the same thing as saying I want to be the President or firefighter or princess, or something. Parents don't listen to you until you repeat it over and over," she said. "Some people say, reach for the sky, but really, reach further than the sky."
Her lifelong dream and passion for STEM launched www.AstronuatAbby.com and thanks to the orbit of social media, she met Luca Parmitano. Her mother, Nicole Harrison, owns a social media company and attended a NASA social media event during a STS-134 Endeavor space shuttle launch in 2011 in Florida. On the way back home in the Florida airport, they met Parmitano by chance.
Harrison now considers Parmitano her mentor. He invited her as a personal guest to watch the Soyuz take off this coming May.
"I feel like it put me a new realm of my dream. It was the first time a real astronaut took an interest in my dream and sat down and talked to me about it," said Harrison.
Overseas, she will blog, tweet and Skype. Later, she will write about the experience for science magazines at science conferences and share what she learned in classroom chats with fellow students. Harrison hopes to inspire other students around the world to realize their own dreams.
"It doesn't matter if you are interested in science and technology or something like fashion. Whatever you are interested in, find that and follow your dreams, no matter what they are," said Harrison.
Her travels won't end there. A girl, known as Astronaut Abby, has learned to shoot far beyond the moon.
"I want to be the first person on Mars in 2030. The idea of setting foot on an extraterrestrial body other than Earth is amazing," said Harrison. "To go to the moon we had a timeline, so it's kind of the same idea. Set a date on stick to it."
Her trip to Kazakhstan and Russia with her mom for two weeks will cost around $35,000.
If you'd like to help in the fundraising or track Harrison as she heads oveseas, follow Twitter @AstronautAbby with #SoyuzAdventure, named after the Russian spacecraft. She's also raising funds on Rockethub.
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