MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 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 www.SpaceFlightInsider.com and www.AstronautAbby.com.
"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 BackgroundBackup.ca 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.
SOURCE Astronaut Abby