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STANDARDS

NGSS: Core Idea: ESS1.B

CCSS: Writing: 7

TEKS: Science: 3.8D, 6.11C; ELA: 3.28, 4.26, 5.26, 6.25


Shooting for the Stars

This teen is gearing up to blast off to Mars. Will you join her?

Taylor Richardson is only in eighth grade. But she already knows what she wants to do with her life. She hopes to be one of the first people to visit Mars!

The 14-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida, may have the chance to do just that. NASA plans to send astronauts to the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s. By then, kids Taylor’s age will be old enough to make the trip.

Taylor first set her sights on space at age 5 after reading an autobiography of astronaut Mae Jemison. In 1992, Jemison orbited Earth aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. She was the first African-American woman in space. “She looked just like me!” says Taylor. “I felt so inspired by what she achieved.” 

Since then, Taylor has been pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math—fields collectively known as STEM. She’s also working to empower other young people to shoot for the stars.

Taylor Richardson is only in eighth grade. But she already knows what she wants to do with her life. She hopes to be one of the first people to visit Mars!

The 14-year-old is from Jacksonville, Florida. And she may have the chance to live her dream. NASA plans to send astronauts to Mars. It aims to send them there sometime in the 2030s. Kids who are Taylor’s age will be old enough to make the trip by then.

Taylor first set her sights on space at age 5. She had read a book by astronaut Mae Jemison about her life. Jemison orbited Earth in 1992. She flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. She was the first African-American woman in space. “She looked just like me!” says Taylor. “I felt so inspired by what she achieved.”

Taylor has been studying science, technology, engineering, and math since then. Together, these fields are known as STEM. She’s also working to inspire other young people. She wants them to shoot for the stars too. 

STEM Power

School wasn’t always easy for Taylor. She has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This condition sometimes makes it hard for her to concentrate. Taylor was also teased for her love of science. But the more she explored STEM, the more confident she became.

When Taylor was 9 years old, she wanted to go to Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. But her family couldn’t afford to send her. So Taylor started an online campaign to raise the money. Inspired by her story, friends, family, and strangers donated enough to cover her tuition.

School wasn’t always easy for Taylor. She has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). That sometimes makes it hard for her to focus. Taylor was also teased for her love of science. But she kept exploring STEM. And she became more sure of herself.

Taylor wanted to go to Space Camp when she was 9. It’s held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. But her family couldn’t afford to send her. So Taylor started an online campaign. Friends, family, and strangers donated money. They were inspired by her story. They gave enough to cover her tuition.

Courtesy of Richardson family

Taylor took part in a simulated mission at Space Camp when she was 9.

At Space Camp, Taylor got the chance to train like a real astronaut. She participated in missions aboard model spacecraft, including one that looks like the International Space Station (ISS). Taylor took part in activities that simulate conditions in space. One simulator gives people the sensation of moving around in low gravity, like what they would experience on the moon.

At Space Camp, Taylor also got to design a colony where astronauts could live on Mars. She had to work with a team to figure out what astronauts would need to survive on the Red Planet, a place with very little water and no breathable air (see Life on Mars).  

Taylor got the chance to train like a real astronaut at space camp. She took part in missions aboard model spacecraft. One even looks like the International Space Station (ISS). Some activities at Space Camp simulate conditions in space. One device makes it feel like you are moving in low gravity. It’s like what a person would feel on the moon.

Taylor also got to design a space colony at camp. It’s a place where astronauts could live on Mars. She had to work with a team. They learned what astronauts would need to survive on the planet. Mars has very little water. And there’s no breathable air (see Life on Mars).  

Giving Back

Courtesy of Richardson family

Taylor loved Space Camp. But it bothered her that she was the only African-American girl there. She wanted to help other girls like her discover a love of STEM. 

Back home in Jacksonville, Taylor held a book drive to collect STEM-themed books for students who couldn’t afford them. She went on to hold a series of book drives called “Take Flight with a Book,” which have collected more than 5,000 books so far.

People began to notice Taylor’s work. In 2016, she was invited to the White House to see the movie Hidden Figures. The film tells the story of three African-American women who worked as mathematicians for NASA in the 1960s. Their calculations helped send the first U.S. astronauts into space.

Taylor loved Space Camp. But something bothered her. She was the only African-American girl there. She wanted to help other girls like her fall in love with STEM.

Taylor went back home to Jacksonville. She held a book drive to collect STEM books. She gave the books to students who couldn’t afford them. She went on to hold more book drives. She called them “Take Flight with a Book.” They have collected more than 5,000 books so far.

People began to notice Taylor’s work. She was invited to the White House in 2016. The invitation was to see the movie Hidden Figures. The film tells the story of three African-American women. They worked for NASA in the 1960s. The women did difficult math. Their work helped send the first U.S. astronauts into space.

Courtesy of Richardson family

Taylor (lower right) with girls she sent to the movie Hidden Figures in Jacksonville.

Inspired by the movie, Taylor held a fund-raiser to send 1,000 girls to see the film in Jacksonville. She earned enough extra money to send a local girl to Space Camp too. 

This past February, Taylor raised enough money to send 1,000 girls to see the science-fiction movie A Wrinkle in Time. Taylor hopes kids are inspired by its main character: an African-American girl who travels through space and time. 

The movie inspired Taylor. She held a fund-raiser. It would send 1,000 girls to see the film in Jacksonville. She raised more money than needed. The extra donations helped send a local girl to Space Camp. 

Taylor raised money again this past February. She sent 1,000 girls to see the science-fiction movie A Wrinkle in Time. The main character is an African-American girl. She travels through space and time. Taylor hopes young girls are inspired by her story. 

Ready for Liftoff

What’s next for Taylor? She plans to study physics, engineering, or another STEM field in college. That’s a requirement to apply for NASA’s astronaut program (see The Right Stuff?).

Taylor is also studying Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Learning different languages is an important skill for astronauts. They need to talk with people from all over the world when working on the ISS.

Taylor knows making it to space is a long shot. Only 107 people have visited the ISS. Just 12 have gone to the moon. But Taylor’s space heroes inspire her to reach for her goals.

Last May, Taylor finally got the chance to meet Mae Jemison when the astronaut spoke at a nearby school. “She told me to dream big,” says Taylor, “and bring more women to the STEM table.”

What’s next for Taylor? She plans to study a STEM field in college. That’s part of what’s needed to apply for NASA’s astronaut program (see The Right Stuff?).

Taylor is also studying Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Knowing different languages is an important skill for astronauts. Many astronauts work on the ISS. They need to talk with people from all over the world.

Taylor knows making it to space is a long shot. Only 107 people have visited the ISS. Just 12 have gone to the moon. But Taylor’s space heroes inspire her to reach for her goals.

Taylor finally got the chance to meet Mae Jemison last May. The astronaut spoke at a nearby school. “She told me to dream big,” says Taylor, “and bring more women to the STEM table.”

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