Abigail Harrison-headshot

Abigail “Astronaut Abby” Harrison (astronautabby.com) is an aspiring astronaut and the founder of the international nonprofit organization The Mars Generation. A rising star in her field, she holds a degree in biology from Wellesley College, has interned at NASA, and has been featured in Forbes, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Seventeen, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, the BBC, USA Today, and more. Abby believes that no one is ever too young to pursue their dreams–she herself is living proof of that notion–and she’s determined to help as many young people as possible start reaching for their very own stars. Abby lives in Minneapolis. Follow her on Twitter @AstronautAbby, on Facebook at Facebook.com/AstronautAbby, and on Instagram @AstronautAbbyOfficial.


What is your background, where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. My background is in STEM education and space exploration.


When did you first become interested in space?

I have been interested in space my entire life. One of my earliest memories—from when I was probably about four or five years old—is of standing outside at night in my backyard looking up at the night sky and dreaming about all the wonders of our universe and about someday going to space to explore those wonders.


What do you think the biggest issue facing the industry today?

This is a difficult question to answer when it’s being asked about in regards to the space industry because it is such a large and varied industry. For example, the biggest challenge in low earth orbit is space debris—there are over half a million pieces of debris orbiting around the earth that are 10 cm or smaller, and 4,000 of these are full size non-operational satellite’s. All of these are traveling at roughly 17,500 miles per hour. That’s pretty crowded, and creates a serious concern of collision for anything that we launch into orbit. However, if you’re talking about interplanetary travel you have an entirely different host of major issues. And again, if you’re talking about space tourism that’s also a new set of issues. That’s what makes space exploration and the space industry so exciting in my opinion—there are always a multitude of issues just waiting to be solved!


What do you like to do for fun?

I’m a huge believer in living a balanced life, and also a huge believer in the importance of the arts (both to my future as a scientist and astronaut and to my general wellness and sanity!) In my spare time, when I’m not focused on my future, my non-profit work, or my outreach and advocacy work, I have a very diverse set of things that I do for fun! I am passionate about dance and regularly attend social partner dances (such as Swing, Blues, Salsa, Bachata, Waltzing, and more) and am a student of Ballet. I also play violin (with a special interest in Irish/Trad fiddling), paint, draw, play strategic board games, and design and sew clothing. In addition, I like to run long distance (I recently completed two half marathons).


What is your favorite movie and why?

My favorite movie probably won’t surprise you- it’s The Martian.

What are some of your favorite books?

Most of my favorite books are in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. These include Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin, and pretty much anything and everything by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, The Way of Kings, Elantris, Words of Radiance).

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading the Leviathan Wakes series by James S. A Corey (which the TV series The Expanse was based on), the Cobra Rebellion series by Timothy Zahn, the Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson, and rereading Harry Potter.

Where do you see the space industry in ten years?

I think one of the largest changes in the space industry that we’ll see in the next ten years is an increase in space tourism. Currently space tourism is only available for the very wealthy and very privileged—I fully believe that we’ll see many incredible things in space over the next ten years and that one of them will be increased accessibility to space for more people.

What would you tell people just starting out in the space industry?

I like to tell anyone just starting out in the space industry (or even just starting to take an interest in space) that they are living in the golden age of space exploration! We are truly on the brink of the most incredible discoveries and advancements in space exploration, human and robotic, and it’s incredible to be alive to be a part of this!


What three words best describe you?

Inquisitive, spunky, and tenacious.

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