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'Astronaut Abby' To Attend NASA's December 4 Inaugural Orion Launch

Teenager Aspires To Be Among First Manned Crew To Mars

Abigail Harrison, 17, has been invited to be 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.

"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."

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 Orion begin its maiden voyage will be another inspiring moment for Harrison, aligning closely with her personal mission: a voyage to Mars. "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."

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, and the launch abort system, developed by one of Harrison's aerospace sponsors, ATK

(Image provided by "Astronaut Abby")

www.AstronautAbby.com

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