Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mekayla & The Mars Generation

I was born in the 80's, so even though going to Mars seemed like such a futuristic, but not unrealistic feat, it's still amazing to see the progress being made in our space endeavors. It was actually a depressing thought to think that what had been accomplished so far might have been it. Being an astronaut or astronomer was one of my very early career goals, and it's still something I have interest in today. It seemed like there was a lack of interest back when I was growing up about science and space and the solar system among my friends (and really anyone in general that I knew). I remember the series "This is America Charlie Brown" (which they need to do a serious re-boot of), and one of the installments was the Peanuts gang living aboard the space station, which had yet to even make it's way into orbit. That episode was cute and to the point about the workings of the space station, the work that they hoped the station would accomplish (one of which was making it possible to visit Mars), and the dangers a crew can face when being in space.

It's why when I set out on my writing endeavor, I made my main girl Mekayla an aspiring astronaut and space explorer. Mekayla has no patience. She wants to run NASA. She wants to go into space at all of 9 years old. She doesn't want to be just the Mars generation. She wants to be the Space Generation. And I wanted her to have a mind, spirit, and imagination that ran wild and wasn't afraid to take risks. Of course, sometimes Mekayla does have a mind of her own and I have to slow her down a bit. But this is what Mekayla envisions her future looking like:

Her goal is to go beyond Mars, to Jupiter and see if life can be habitable on it's many moons. And she definitely believe there can be life on Saturn's moon, Titan, which she learned may have an environment somewhat similar to ours. Saturn is by far her favorite planets, mainly due to it being so unique because of its rings. She wants to venture beyond our solar system and see what else is out there. She says it makes her sad when she thinks about leaving Earth, because she knows not everyone can come with her. She knows that day when she heads off into the space shuttle bound for Mars and beyond, she may not come back. But Mekayla is a scientist. She would love to figure out ways to communicate and travel from billions of miles away in less time. She doesn't believe in the word 'no' or 'impossible' when it comes to science. She has a working model of the Cassini-Huygens space craft that has been orbiting Saturn for a decade sitting her room (this obviously isn't her model, but it's a print out that she keeps hanging above it to keep inspiring her).

It won her 1st place in the state science fair. To her it's amazing to think of these spacecrafts out in space and actually being on these planets, or close to them. And she never passes up a chance to stare up at the starry sky (or as she tells me, her future home), even if it's just laying down in the grass. She loves anything science related on TV and has even gotten up early on weekends to watch space related documentaries. Mekayla was crushed when the space shuttle Discovery was retired, as she thought that might spell an end to her ambitions of being an astronaut. But she's begun to get inspired with the talk of the Mars generation and seeing kids just like her who want to sign up to take flight. She was excited for the Rosetta spacecraft that touched down on a comet for the first time ever just recently. And she'll definitely be watching for the Orion to take off on December 4th. Mekayla's been told there are lots of science related careers she could go into if being an astronaut didn't work out. And she loves nature, figuring stuff out, and experimenting (sometimes with mixed results). But she believes these new accomplishments are a sign that it's all meant to be for her. For Thanksgiving this year, she gave thanks for many things, one of them that she has an opportunity to pursue these paths and make history. She has her role models, both past and present that have inspired her to take that big leap. Some of them are astronauts, others are aspiring space junkies just like her. She hopes she will do the same and inspire the next generation. If she can't make it to Saturn or the many moons of that planet and Jupiter, she believes that'll be reserved for future astronauts.

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