Ask an astronaut

Muna Hassan
Production Assistant
Public Insight Network

Have you ever dreamed of being an astronaut? Do you know what steps to take to make that dream a reality?

On Friday, April 26, we hosted a Google Hangout featuring Astronaut Abby — a 15-year-old high school student in Minneapolis, Minn. who has her sights set on being the first person to walk on Mars — and her mentor, Italian European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano — one of the three astronauts traveling to the International Space Station on May 28.


Luca will soon be blasting off on his first space mission, six months at the International Space Station (ISS). And Abby will be at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to watch the launch as Luca’s guest. Abby and Luca will email daily while he’s in space, and she will share his photos, research, videos, and stories with the world.

Thank you to everyone who sent in questions using this query,via Twitter or in the live chat.  Although our Ask an Astronaut chat is over, both Abby and Luca said they still welcome your your questions.  You can contact them via social media through their websites: and

Meet our astronauts

  • Abigail “Astronaut Abby” Harrison is a 15-year-old high school sophomore in Minneapolis, Minn., who has her sights set on being the first astronaut to land on Mars. Since she was in fifth grade, she has been fascinated with space and flying, and has participated in a number of programs designed specifically for those interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She is also a committed gymnast. Abby is currently raising awareness of STEM education by visiting classrooms in person and via the Internet, and raising funds for her upcoming trip to see Luca’s first space flight.
  • Luca Parmitano is an Italian astronaut for the European Space Agency (ESA).  ESA selected him and five others to be astronauts in 2009.  On May 28, he leaves on his first space mission.  He will take a six-hour flight on the  Soyuz TMA-09 to the ISS, where he will serve for six months.  Luca is currently completing his mission preparation in Star City, Russia, near Moscow. He is also a pilot for the Italian Air Force, logging more than 2,000 hours of flying time, and is qualified on more than 20 types of military airplanes and helicopters.

Mission to MarsAbby and Luca both want to visit Mars.  How about you?  Has Mars changed your life or career?  Is Mars your muse?  Or, do you just think Mars is super cool?  Tell us about your connection to Mars.  Then visit our Mars Tumblr, where we post our favorite submissions — and share the best about the red planet from across the web.


Muna Hassan Production Assistant
Public Insight Network
Muna Hassan is the Production Assistant for the Public Insight Network. Previously, she has been a writer at a community newspaper, editor at a technical magazine and web producer at a political analysis website. She enjoys learning about different people and loves hearing stories from all walks of life. In her free time, Muna keeps herself busy by delving into a variety of different projects, including teaching bootcamp and yoga classes; studying different languages and cultures; and working with adults with disabilities.