Alyssa Carson isn’t your average 18-year-old. As the world’s youngest astronaut-in-training, she’s got a big dream: to be the first human to step foot on Mars. But despite her name being the one to appear in the headlines lately, as she’s gaining recognition in the science community, Carson knows that her success will be defined by teamwork and collaboration is what is truly at the heart of every astronaut. “Nothing in space can be done with one person,” she says. “It takes tens of thousands of people to send one astronaut to space.”

In her Thrive Questionnaire, Carson shares how she stayed focused on her long-term goal, and reveals the bedroom decoration that inspired her love of space.

TG: What gives you energy?

AC: I get my energy from the people around me and being immersed in exciting environments.  

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

AC: My secret life hack is finding what I’m passionate about. If you do that, then you will always be working towards something you enjoy.

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 

AC: I think that The Martian not only further inspired my dream, but also inspired the general public with the idea of a mission to Mars. I think that it excited more and more people about the mission.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

AC: When I have 15 minutes it depends on what’s going on. I sometimes use that time to do homework, take a quick break, eat a snack, or whatever else. 

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

AC: Since starting college I have felt burned out several times just adjusting to my new lifestyle of school and living on my own. I have been struggling with getting used to my classes but the resource centers and my friends have been helping me keep up.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

AC: I enjoy quotes by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I love his way of saying that we are one with the universe and his outlook on space is really inspiring. 

TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life?

AC: Most astronauts are my role models but Sandra Magnus in particular. She inspired me when I was young by showing me that I can decide what I want at a young age, work hard, and achieve it. 

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?

AC: Whenever I begin to get stressed, I usually take a break or a breath. I remind myself that I can achieve whatever it is that is overwhelming me and try to get my motivation back. 

TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?

AC: I have several things that I find calming, but two of my favorites are watching baking shows and being with my dog.

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?

AC: I usually try to look at the bright side of every problem. I think about the positives that are going on in the moment.

TG: What brings you optimism?

AC: In terms of space travel, my passion brings me optimism. I believe that humans are ready for a mission to Mars and the more excitement around it leads me to have more optimism that it will happen. 

TG: Fill in the blanks: People think I’m _______, but really I’m ______.

AC: People think I’m a genius but I’m genuinely just a hard worker

TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?

AC: A big turning point was joining Project PoSSUM. Project PoSSUM is a citizen science research organization, and I have loved the opportunity to join their family and get the chance to help conduct several research projects.

TG: You’ve had a fascination with space since you were a young child. What inspired you to choose this path?

AC: The best guess that my dad and I have is that I was influenced by the cartoon “The Backyardigans.” I had the poster for the mission to Mars episode hung in my bedroom. That is really the only place we can think of where I would have even heard the words space or Mars at such a young age.

TG: You started your journey quite early; you even got your rocket license before getting your driver’s permit. Do you feel it is important for people to chase their dreams starting at a very young age?

AC: I think that kids should realize that they don’t have to wait to start pursuing a passion or dream of theirs. Even if what you want to do changes, you can work hard at it along the way. 

TG: What does your journey to becoming an astronaut look like?

AC: I have quite some time to go. I need to finish school, gain some work experience, and apply to the selection process. If I am chosen, then that is followed by several years of training before embarking on my first mission.

TG: How do you balance your social life, schoolwork, and space training? 

AC: It is very tricky. It involves a lot of time management, a calendar, and a lot of communication between me and my dad. I do as much as I can while also working in as much downtime as I can. I still feel like I’ve lived a normal life of hanging out with my friends and being a normal teenager. 

TG: Other than space training, do you have a certain activity or pastime that helps you thrive?

AC: Growing up, I played competitive soccer for 10 years which I still enjoy doing in my spare time. I also enjoy flying and scuba diving

TG: Training to become the first human on Mars can be tiring. What helps you recharge? 

AC: I recharge with some good Louisiana Cajun food, especially crawfish, and a good night’s rest. 

TG: Someone wants to chase their biggest, wildest dream starting today. Where do they begin? 

AC: Talk about your dreams to everyone, because you never know where an opportunity might be.