By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Abby Harrison knew there was always something she loved about space.

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“Mostly I’d say it’s the curiosity and the wonder that there’s so much out there that we don’t know about, and so much to discover that really drives me and motivates me,” Harrison said.

This May, she’ll head to Kazakhstan to watch the Soyuz TMA-09M expedition launch for its six-month mission to the International Space Station. On board will be Minnesota-native astronaut Karen Nyberg, cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano.

It was Parmitano who invited Abby to the May 2013 launch after meeting her at the 2011 STS 134 Endeavor space shuttle launch in Florida.

“It’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

According to her mom, Nicole Harrison, Abby has told everyone that she wanted to be an astronaut since age five.

“All the adults around were like, ‘Oh, that’s great,’” Nicole said.

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It wasn’t until Abby was 10 or 11 that her mom realized her daughter’s dream was for real. After Nicole told her daughter about all the hard work required, Abby returned with two sheets of paper and a whole lot of determination.

“She said, ‘There are two ways to become an astronaut, Mom – there’s the military and there’s civilian,’” Nicole said.

Nicole considers herself a “space mom” who accompanies Abby to shuttle launches, attends dinners with astronauts and even helped her start up her own blog,

Now they’re both headed to Kazakhstan for two weeks at the end of May. There, Abby will be blogging, tweeting and taking videos and photos about her experience. In the six months after her return, she’ll be doing Skype chats, classroom visits and writing for national science periodicals.

She’ll miss two weeks of school, but her teachers say this is valuable learning experience. Mick Hamilton teaches Abby’s AP biology class at Minneapolis’ South High School – where she is the only sophomore in a class of mostly seniors.

“No question – if anybody can do it, she can do it,” Hamilton said.

Abby believes she can most certainly make the leap from watching to flying into space.

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“I see myself on Mars in 20 years,” she said. “But prior to that, I just want to get a good college education and make a difference.”

Heather Brown