My Journey Archives - Astronaut Abby

[Video] My Reactions to EFT-1 Orion Launch and Splashdown

I am so lucky. I have been able to witness not one, not two, but three historical launches. In 2011, I was able to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s last launch, the STS-134. Witnessing what is now the past of American human space flight is an experience I will never forget. A couple of years later, in 2013, I was able to see my mentor Astronaut Luca Parmitano and his launch on the Soyuz TMA-09 to the International Space Station. The Russian Soyuz Space Craft represents the present of human space flight. I witnessed this launch in Baikonur, Kazakhstan with Luca’s family and friends. It’s hard to put words on this experience as it was very personal to watch someone I know launch into space and having an experience to witness the Russian Space Program in action was phenomenal.

And most recently on December 5, 2014, I was able to be behind the scenes for the EFT-1 Orion launch, the first test flight of the Orion space craft which is America’s new space craft. Witnessing what is the future of human space exploration and eventually my ride to Mars was incredibly emotional. I was not expecting this unmanned mission that lasted only 4 hours to bring forth so many emotions. It was truly a special moment to watch history unfold.

I have been so fortunate to witness all three launches and be able to report the experiences to the world through my Future of Space outreach program.

Below are three videos that help capture my immediate reactions to EFT-1 Orion Luanch

Immediately after watching the EFT-1 Orion launch

Although this launch was different than the Soyuz launch I saw in 2013 in that Luca wasn’t on it, the EFT-1 Orion launch was still very emotional to witness. This is our future. To see something so unique and advanced is incredible!

Watching the EFT-1 Crew Module Splashdown

This may just look like a TV screen, but it is so much more important than that! This video captures me witnessing the splashdown of the EFT-1 Orion spacecraft. The video was taken in the press room of the Kennedy Space Center. Being amongst so many space reporters, astronauts and space industry professionals to  watch history be made was an intense and pretty awesome experience.

Right after the splashdown of the EFT-1 Orion

The launch was great of course, but watching the gentle landing was mind-blowing. This is our spacecraft, and America couldn’t be more proud. #MarsorBust2030 has never seemed more real than it does right now!

Being able to witness these three launches, particularly the Orion EFT-1 on Dec. 5, has been incredible. I feel so lucky to be a part of it. I just watched the landing of the spacecraft that will one day take me to Mars. If that’s not the coolest thing ever, I don’t know what is!


My big news! Behind the scenes for the inaugural Orion Launch!

Aspiring astronaut

Exciting news! I’ve been invited to report on the December 4 inaugural Orion launch in Cape Canaveral. This opportunity is amazing, and I feel so lucky! Orion is the deep space vehicle I hope will one day take me to Mars. This journey gets more and more exciting as I grow older. Check out the press release below for more information on this exciting adventure and also to find out more about my future plans (hint, hint scroll to the bottom).

Thank you to everyone who continues to support me!

Astronaut Abby to attend NASA’s December 4 inaugural Orion launch: 17-year-old aspires to be in first manned crew to Mars

Minneapolis, November 19, 2014 – 

Abigail Harrison, 17, has been invited behind the scenes at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to provide press coverage and commentary during the upcoming launch of Orion, atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex on December 4, 2014.

Considered the critical next step toward launching a manned mission to Mars, NASA’s Exploration Flight Test-1 will test instruments and systems aboard the deep space Orion capsule, including:

  • The durability of the next generation heat shield–the largest of its kind ever built
  • The launch abort system, developed by one of Harrison’s aerospace sponsors, ATK

“Orion is the United States’ next generation deep space vehicle,” explains Harrison. “Since the end of the Apollo program, human space exploration has been confined to low-Earth orbit. With Orion and heavy lift launch vehicles like Space Launch System, we will once again be capable of pushing human space exploration beyond this boundary.”

The Journey To Mars: Inspiring others along the way

Last year, Harrison traveled to Russia as a special guest of the European Space Agency and Italian Astronaut Luca Parmitano to be a part of a legendary Soyuz launch, Soyuz-TMA-09M. Since attending this launch, Harrison has created and run a worldwide outreach program to excite kids about space exploration, STEM learning and their own dreams. The program, named The Future of Space, consists of speaking engagements, visiting classrooms virtually and in person, writing articles and continuing to share her journey to Mars through her social media channels to over 200,000 supporters across Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

“Being at the Soyuz launch, seeing my mentor Astronaut Parmitano launch to the International Space Station–that was truly an awe-inspiring experience!” says Harrison.

Watching History Unfold: From Spectator to Participant

Watching Orion begin its maiden voyage will be another inspiring moment for Harrison, aligning closely with her personal mission:

“Orion is being engineered to safely transport crews to deep space destinations like the moon, Mars and eventually beyond,” she says. “Witnessing the first flight of Orion will be watching history itself unfold–a history which I am humbled to be part of, on my own mission to become one of the first crew members to journey to Mars.”

During the week of December 1-5, Harrison will be reporting from Cape Canaveral with SpaceFlight Insider, led by Senior Editor Jason Rhian. “Given her public speaking experience and her vast knowledge of all things aerospace, we’re proud to have Ms. Harrison on board to help conduct our on-site interviews and to be a part of our live mission newscast.” Her live coverage and updates can be found on and

“Ms. Harrison has consistently delivered on her commitment to achieve great things and to make a significant impact in her community,” says Sean Costello, owner of and one of Harrison’s reciprocal mentors. “I am ecstatic to hear that Abby will not only get to witness the historic first flight of Orion–what I believe to be her future vehicle–but also that she has been recognized as being intelligent and experienced enough to report on it.”

Harrison is currently completing her senior year of high school at the University of Minnesota and will graduate from South High School in Minneapolis, Minn. with honors in the spring of 2015. Harrison is applying to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT and many other high-ranking schools.

For interviews, photos or further information contact:
Nicole Harrison

Sharing My Space Camp Experiences With Johns Hopkins’ Imagine Magazine

Astronaut Abby ImagineExciting news! John’s Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Imagine magazine asked me to write about my experiences at Space Camp. It is an incredible honor to write and share my passion for space for the September/October 2014 issue. I was excited to write about it and hopefully inspire other kids everywhere else to dream and to follow their passion–whatever it may be.

My interest in space began when I was five years old and from then on, it grew. When I was in seventh grade, I was able to attend a Space Camp center in Huntsville, Alabama and I knew I had to go back as soon as I could. It wasn’t until a few years afterward that I saved enough to attend the Advanced Space Academy for high school juniors and seniors. The camp was everything I dreamed of and exceeded my expectations!

We were all divided into groups of 16 and we worked, ate and traveled together. Besides the fun and games, we did plenty of work, too. Some of what we did included working on projects with limited time and resources within 24-hour simulations. The simulations were full of anomalies, which tested our ability to think and solve problems quickly. One of my simulations involved the “Christmas tree,” in which our whole system’s warning console lit up due to an electrical error. After 24 hours, you’ve been through an experience that felt like anything but just a simulation.

My time at Space Camp allowed me to not only be challenged as an astronaut but also reinforced my passion and determination to become one in the future. My experiences were educational and exhilarating, and I would recommend Space Camp for everyone who is aspiring to have a future in space.

I hope you enjoy the article and will pass it along to your friends!

Thank you for your continued support,

Astronaut Abby

Neutral Buoyancy Training in Costa Rica | My Scuba Experience

Neutral buoyancy, or ‘weightlessness’, has long been a central part of training astronauts and cosmonauts for their forays into outer space. The most common and cost-effective way to achieve a semblance of weightlessness on earth is through neutrally buoyant diving otherwise known as scuba diving. Through scuba diving, astronauts can become accustomed to the sense of weightlessness, prepare for EVA’s (extravehicular activities, or ‘spacewalks’), and practice procedures for emergency situations in space. Scuba diving is an incredibly important skill for astronauts to master and Over the years, I’ve been advised by many space professionals to obtain scuba diving experience in order to further my astronaut dreams. During this blustery winter, I was fortunate enough (thanks Mom!) to have an opportunity to become Padi open water dive certified!

Last year I got a taste of scuba diving at space camp in Huntsville, Alabama. We suited up, learned the basics, and swam to the bottom of a 40 foot pool. For 30 minutes, my teammates and I swam while hoisting hundred pound balls, doing flips, and configuring pressure rockets. After this short experience with diving, I was hooked. I went home and raved about how incredible it had been. I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to dive again so quickly. My experience at camp sparked my mom’s interest to start scuba diving, and before I knew it, we were studying for our Padi open water scuba diving certifications!

Living in Minnesota, our options for open water dives were pretty slim, as certification requires four open water dives. We were looking at extremely cold, ice diving in murky lakes. We decided that if we were going to do this, we should do it right. And so we headed to the Pacific Ocean off the remote coast of sunny Costa Rica! Not only was the water warm, but there was plenty of flora and fauna! We were lucky to have extremely clear water on our dives. It is an entirely different world underwater. Motion and vision take on new meaning, while sound becomes almost nonexistent. Schools of fish swim by in mesmerizing swarms, predators lurk patiently along the bottom, and gentle giant sea turtles meander through the water. Every turn and crevice holds a new surprise, a new wonder and beauty to behold.

Equally as amazing as the underwater ecosystem, is the feeling of neutral buoyancy. Neutral buoyancy is achieved through careful balancing of the natural tendency to sink or float, weights, and small amounts of air. After having this balance set, it is possible to control your buoyancy through breathing in and out. As you breathe in, your lungs fill with air and you should rise. Expelling this air causes you to sink slightly. The most incredible part of diving, perhaps even the most incredible feeling of my life, is to close your eyes and simply exist. Neither floating nor sinking, your breaths balancing out perfectly. With no sound and the dim blue light of the ocean, you can imagine you are anywhere. You can picture anything. For me, when I closed my eyes and found this perfect moment of neutral buoyancy, I pictured the Earth rotating slowly beneath me, drifting farther and farther away in the weightlessness of space.

Often, people will ask me how close I am to reaching my goal of going to Mars. This is always a difficult question to answer because my goal is so far in the future. With a plan as long-term and difficult as mine, it’s important to focus it into smaller steps. Through becoming scuba certified, I feel as if I have taken one step closer to becoming an astronaut and going to Mars. I may have a long way to go, but experiences such as this let me look back at my path and recognize how far I have truly come.

Chatting with Luca Parmitano On the ISS | Recording

Thanks to Penny Pettigrew for taking this picture while I talked to Luca!

Thanks to Penny Pettigrew for taking this picture while I talked to Luca!

Thanks to the entire International Space Station Payload Operations Communications Team (Marshall Space Flight Center – Huntsville Alabama) and Mission Control (Johnson Space Center – Houston Texas) and Penny Pettigrew for helping coordinate this amazing opportunity. I was able to speak to my mentor Luca Parmitano on Friday July 26, 2013 while he was orbiting the earth on the ISS. It’s pretty amazing that he was speaking to me from space. What an incredible experience!

It’s taken me awhile to publish this recording here on my blog because I had to sit down and learn how to upload an mp3 to the blog. Turns out this was not that challenging to learn – I just had to make the time! Check out the recording below.


Press the play button below to hear the recording

Transcript of Recording:

Luca: This is Luca.

Payload Communications (PLC): Is this Luca?

Luca: It’s my understanding that you have a guest out there who may be interested in talking to me for some reason.
PLC: We do. Give us just a few minutes to get her in here and we’ll call up.
Luca: Standing by.
PLC: Okay, Luca, we’re back with you on two.
Luca: And I’m on two ready to copy.
PLC: Okay, I’ll let her say hello.
Abby: Hi, Luca! It’s Abby.
Luca: You’ve been quite the traveler haven’t you been?
Abby: Yeah, I guess so. How are you doing?
Luca: Oh, I’m doing great. This is so exciting and always a good time. And secondly I’m on the space station which is always a fabulous time. So I couldn’t be better.
Luca: How is Alabama treating you?
Abby: I can’t imagine it couldn’t be better up there. We’re doing good down here also. Thank you for all the recommendations for things to do while we were in Houston. Oh, and my mom says hi also.
Luca: Hello back to your mom. I’m glad you enjoyed Houston. I really like Houston, it’s a fun city and even though I’ve never been to Huntsville it’d be fun to have a look down there. It was quite a busy day with them and a lot of fun.
Abby: Yeah, it sounded like it was a busy day when I was talking to Penny. She was saying you had a lot going on. That’s good I guess.
Luca: Absolutely. We like being busy. And we’ve been busy up here. There’s never a dull moment so it’s a really exciting to be. The company is fantastic and the view is really outstanding and life couldn’t be better.
Abby: Yeah, I would imagine so.
Luca: Are you still planning to come to Mars?
Abby: Yep, we actually just went today and saw some of the models that are for long duration space flight.
Luca: That’s very excting, that’s very cool. Well, keep going on your knowledge and all the good things that you’re doing and the world will open up for you, I have no doubt.
Abby: Thank you, Luca, and thank you so much for your help. It was great talking to you again.
Luca: Nice talking to you. I think for me now it’s dinnertime. I have no idea what time of day it is over there but enjoy the rest of the visit and have a fantastic time and I’ll see you on Twitter and Facebook and all those cool places on the Internet.
Abby: Yep, sounds good. We’ll definitely be seeing you there. Well, I should probably let you go now and good luck and have fun on the space station
Luca: Great talking to you – anything is possible. So glad to be on the space station, it’s a fantastic place to be.
Abby: Yeah.
Luca: All right, have a great rest of the day and a fantastic visit and see you soon.
Abby: Thank you, Luca. Bye!