I have dreamt of becoming a NASA astronaut and going to Mars since I was five. I’m moving in the right direction. I’m a 17-year-old secondary-school student, but I’m also a former NASA intern and a crew biologist at Astroland Interplanetary Agency, a company in Santander, Spain, that simulates missions on Mars.
In the picture above, taken in November 2022, I’m standing inside the cave that served as our ‘Martian’ base for six days. Mars astronauts will probably live in caves to protect themselves against the extreme cold and high levels of radiation at the surface. Our home base, the ‘Ares Station’, is about one kilometre inside a mountain in Cantabria, Spain. There’s very little light inside the cave, and I shivered in the damp air, which stayed around 5 °C.
Every day, my crew mates — four young women from different parts of Europe — and I would go on sampling missions. I was in charge of taking biological samples, using the same techniques that an exobiologist would use to look for signs of life on Mars. I had to be meticulous when collecting, storing and examining samples, to avoid contamination. During this mission, I found amoebae, bacteria and cyanobacteria. Who knows what might be found on Mars?
Ours was the first all-female crew to complete an Astroland mission. There’s often tension in groups living in difficult conditions, but we really bonded.
The first staffed mission to Mars is scheduled to leave Earth in 2033, but these things often get delayed. I could be in my thirties when the mission actually happens, which is a good age for an astronaut.
After our mission, some of the participants decided that living as an astronaut wasn’t for them. But I’m more excited than ever, and I’m more confident in my abilities to withstand the conditions and perform my duties. This was a great step for me and my dreams.