My Journey Archives - Astronaut Abby

Should I Fly or Dive into my Dreams?

PADI Certification For Astronaut Application

A photo of me after I received my PADI open water certification December 25, 2013 in Costa Rica.

What do you think? Should I fly, or should I dive into my dreams? How about both? Yes, that sounds good! As I am preparing to leave for Wellesley College and take on the academic rigor that awaits me, I am taking some time this summer to dive and fly into my dreams. That means I’m working towards several advanced PADI scuba diving certifications and beginning my pilots training.

Minimal requirements for application to the NASA astronaut Corps for the Mission Specialist do not require a pilot’s license or scuba certification. But the competition is tough to become an astronaut. With the 2013 class, only .0013% of the applicants made it into the candidate program. Anything you can do to strengthen your application is considered worthwhile.

Diving into it

I achieved my PADI Open Water Scuba Certification when I was 16 years old in December of 2013 and have since continued to dive for practice and fun. Now at age 18, it’s time to get my next certification. In PADI, you work your way up a certification ladder. I plan to go towards the professional certification level and become a Divemaster and possibly an instructor. But to do that, I need to get a few basic certifications out of the way and also gain more diving experience.

My plans are to attain my Advanced Open Water Certification August 4 and 5, 2015 and my Rescue Diver Certification August 17, 18 and 19, 2015 in Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota. My instructor is Edward Nelson, a captain in the Saint Paul Fire Department as well as a search and rescue scuba diver and trainer.

Minnesota lakes are cold even in the summer, so I will be wearing a thick 5mm diving suit, booties, and the whole bit. I will also be getting first aid and CPR certified through the American Red Cross at the end of July, as that is required to gain a Rescue Diver Certification. After attaining Rescue Diver Certification, I will dive for the next 6 months or so and then begin working on my Divemaster Certification, which will be much more intense to attain.

The fun thing about this entire process is that my mom has been getting certified along with me. I enjoy that this is an activity we can do together and at least she gets to feel a little bit what it’s like to be in space.

Aspiring Astronaut Flying Lessons

My first time flying an airplane at age 13. I was in St. Maarten with my mom visiting friends. I was invited to fly on an island hopping trip to deliver lobster (our friends export lobster). This was great fun!

Flying towards the future

I will begin my private pilot license training during the same time period of my scuba certifications. We have reservations with a flight school and I will take 2 to 3 instructional flights before I leave for Wellesley. While at college I will work through an online program to gain the book knowledge I will need to pass my final FAA private pilot license. I will continue with instructional flying time each time I return home to Minnesota during my first year at Wellesley. I will be home 4 or 5 times during the school year due to having my braces adjusted .



These are the requirements for attaining a private pilot license:

  • 25-40 hours of Dual Instruction
  • 10-15 hours of Solo Flight Time
  • 1 hour of Simulator Time
  • 35 hours of Ground Instruction
  • Pass FAA Medical Exam
  • Pass Pilot Test
  • Pass Knowledge Test

My goal will be to complete my private pilot license no later than the spring of 2016 and pick up working towards my next license which will be gaining instrument rating. From there I will work up to a commercial license and advanced ratings.

As you can see, I have several short-term immediate goals along with long term plans that will take me some time to complete. I plan to share this entire air and water journey with all of you, sign up to receive my blog posts in your inbox to make sure you don’t miss a thing!



I am a Rocket Woman: NASA Celebrates Centennial

journey to mars deep space

I have exciting news! NASA is celebrating the centennial anniversary of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) that was founded in 1915 and it’s merger to NASA in 1958. With 100 years of history NACA/NASA  have changed the world we live in. NASA will be present at EEA Air Venture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin July 19 – July 26, 2015 with a series of panels that will help commemorate the past while also sharing and discussing future projects. The EEA Air Venture show is the largest air show in the United States. NASA will have an exhibit throughout the week at the new Aviation Gateway Park in Oshkosh. This is going to be an exciting week!

What makes it even more exciting is that I have been invited to take part in the Women Rocket Scientists panel on Friday July 24, 2015, 10 – 11:15 a.m. at Forum Building 9. I will be presenting with renowned women leaders in the space industry including: Susan Baggerman, NASA; Janica Cheney, Orbital ATK; Kathryn Crowe, NASA; Sandra Magnus, Space Shuttle and International Space Station astronaut; Iylene Patino, Boeing; and Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne. We will be discussing the women leaders today who are building the human space exploration program of the future for my generation, The Mars Generation™.

rocket women nasa centennial panel

It is beyond an honor to be taking the stage with these women, who are my mentors, my idols and the women who are working alongside their male counterparts to ensure that my generation, The Mars Generation™, will be prepared to take our place in history when our time comes. It takes planning today to make a future tomorrow that will be as bright as possible when we explore Mars, asteroids, the moon and beyond. I am very thankful for the invitation and also thankful to my mother for bringing me down to Oshkosh for the entire week so I can attend many of the other presentations and experience this amazing air show.

I will be sharing updates along the way. Stay tuned and sign up here if you want to make sure you don’t miss anything!

aerojet rocketdyne boeing lockheed martin orbital atk

Photos of My New Home, Wellesley College

Now that I have chosen Wellesley College as my home for the next four years, I thought I would share some photos from my recent tour. The best way I can describe the Wellesley campus is that it’s incredibly beautiful. Sitting on over 500 acres of land, there is plenty of nature and room to explore. It also has a bit of Hogwarts blended with a more modern twist.

I love the history of the college and the fact that it’s built on hills, which helps keep the students in shape as they walk the campus. It is a plus for a future astronaut! The Wellesley Alumnae are known to be the perhaps the most powerful women’s network in the world. It’s an honor to be joining this community and I look forward to the mentorship that the generation before me will bring to my generation, The Mars Generation™. I also look forward to the new friends I will make during my time there – knowing these women will be with me throughout my career. Scroll below to read the captions of each photo and learn more about the Wellesley campus.


This is the admissions building! It was hard to capture the entire building on an iPhone, but it’s a beautiful old building that has all the custom molding and historic architecture both inside and out that I have grown to love while living in the city of Minneapolis. I am a huge fan of old architecture!


This is residence hall Stone Davis, and picture does not do it justice. It wraps around in a curve on both sides and faces a beautiful lake. Current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called this building home for her years at Wellesley. I would love to live in this dormitory, but I have no idea of where I will live or who my roommate is yet!


The Chapel at Wellesley is beautiful and feels welcoming. The chapel is not specific in faith, which is very nice. Many religious and non-religious affiliated events happen in the chapel.


This is a photo of one end of the library building. The library is massive and once again it’s hard to get a photo that shows the entire building. There are science and music-specific libraries housed here as well as a general library. I love that there is a science-specific library!


When you first walk into the library, this is what you see. It’s gorgeous and makes you want to sit down and absorb as much knowledge as you can. I can’t wait to study here!


Here’s the Campus Student Center. It’s a much more modern building. The bookstore, a coffee shop, restaurant/cafeteria and many other things are housed here. The inside is as unique as the outside. Simply wonderful!


The Science Center at Wellesley College is really cool inside. It’s a mix of old architecture and some new architecture as well! When I stand in this building and look around, I imagine in my head “this is home.” I can see myself spending many hours in this building. I can’t wait!


Here is a photo collage I made of inside the Science Center to try and let you see some of what I see when I stand within the central corridor.



I can’t wait to participate in the astronomy research that takes place in the Whitin Observatory. This photo is with Professor Wes Watters, who is a Mars expert and will be one of my instructors! He is explaining some of the work the college does using the three large telescopes that are part of the Whitin Observatory.


I thought this t-shirt in the bookstore was great. “Wellesley women. Great Secretaries…of State.” I am already a major feminist, but I am guessing my time at Wellesley will only strengthen my beliefs. I cannot wait!

Meeting Astronaut Gene Cernan and Reaching for Mars [Video]

As I am nearing my high school graduation I have been reflecting on some of the amazing and wonderful experiences that I have had in the last 4 years. One memory that I will forever cherish was meeting the last man to walk on the moon, Gene Cernan. On December 8, 2012 (at age 14) I attended the 40th Anniversary Gala for Apollo 17 as a guest of Sean Costello of Background Backup. I met Gene at the VIP reception before this event. It was a very special moment to meet the last man to walk on the moon, especially since I hope and plan to be the first person to walk on Mars. The picture of us together is forever priceless. It was a big surprise and a great honor to have Gene mention meeting me at the end of his keynote speech.  Watch the video to hear what he said!

Gene Cernan: We will go back to the moon and we will go to Mars! I met a young lady who’s in this audience today who said she wants to be the first person on Mars. If you want to be that person, we’ll give you that chance. There will be that opportunity to be the first person on Mars. You are in the right place at the right time. It’s up to us  to provide those shoulders from which you can stand on so that you can reach for your star as we did for ours. Thank you.


Presenting at the Shorty Awards!

I had the amazing opportunity to co-present at the 2015 Shorty Awards! I got to meet some awesome people who do great work with social media, using it as a tool to inspire young people all over the world. To be in a room with such great and influential people was a cool experience! Thanks Shorty Awards for having me there, and thanks to those who nominated me for the Teen Hero award! Here are some photos from the event:

Shorty Awards 1

Here’s a photo of Astronaut Mike Massimino and me presenting the science and green awards at the ceremony. It was great fun when we announced Bill Nye The Science Guy as the science award winner, and we got to give him his award before he spoke to the audience.


Lucy DeVito

I love the show Deadbeat on Hulu! Meeting actress Lucy DeVito who plays one of my favorite characters in the show was a highlight of the Shorty Awards!


Bill Nye the Science Guy

What can I say? Meeting Bill Nye The Science Guy is kind of a big deal for me!!! He’s amazing!


shorty awards 4

My mom is my biggest supporter and has been with me every step of the way on my #JourneyToMars even at the Shorty Awards! Thanks Mom!