It happened innocently enough, Abby Harrison’s love affair with space.

“Some of my earliest memories as a kid was looking up at the night sky, and imagining what was up there.”

Harrison’s imagination took her to space camp when she was 13, and eventually to Wellesley College, where she is a freshman, steeped in science. Her dream? To become the first astronaut to reach Mars.

“She’s an amazing young woman,” said Nicole Harrison, Abby’s mom. “To watch her go towards this dream and this goal, and, honestly she’s empowered me over the years.”

Mother and daughter created a foundation to share that dream, The Mars Generation. Their mission? To send other teens to space camp, to ignite a passion for science.

“I think that space camp is something that can change a student’s life,” Abby explained. “Especially in those critical years when STEM is starting to become not cool for then, or school in general is starting to become not cool.”

The Mars Generation boasts a board made up of retired astronauts, engineers and citizens who are powering an effort to teach the importance of space exploration. Part of that effort is a push to fund ten scholarships this year for students who meet the USDA free lunch income guidelines. The Harrisons believe these will be the only scholarships available that not only pay for tuition for camp, but also pay for travel. Abby doesn’t want any barriers for students who have a passion to learn.

Helping her along the way, contacts she’s made through the space industry, NASA, TED talks, all of her community outreach, and industry partners like Orbital ATK, based in Plymouth.

“The community that has been supporting me all these years as I strive to become an astronaut is stepping in and saying that they’re not only passionate about my dreams and my goals, but they are passionate about seeing all of these youth that we have today grow up to be responsible leaders tomorrow,” said Abby.

Students interested in scholarships can be nominated by their teachers through February. Learn more at the Mars Generation website.