Ashton Jenks aspires to take part in the next giant leap for mankind by being a space shuttle pilot and possibly visiting Mars.

“I think I’ll be just the right age when they want to send someone,” said the 10-year-old Clements/Parsons Elementary School fifth-grader. “It would be neat to be a pilot.”

Ashton received a scholarship to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., last September through the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, or NOAH.

Even though she attended the camp more than four months ago, Ashton can still recite the name of the chemicals used to power the space shuttle going to the international space station.

“Monomethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide,” Ashton said. “My friend (at Space Camp) kept repeating it, and other people memorized it.”

Ashton has albinism, an inherited condition that causes a person to have little or no pigment in their eyes, skin or hair, requiring more caution when going into the sun. It can also sometimes affect vision.

“It makes me not see as well,” Ashton said. “I always have to sit in the front row.”

Despite the impairment, Ashton works hard to perform well in her classes, earning a spot on the A/B honor roll last semester.

Her science teacher, Denise Smith, said Ashton is an exceptional student.

“You can tell when she gets excited (to learn something). You can see it in her eyes and she talks a little fast,” Smith said. “She’s never a student to complain and finds ways to overcome challenges.”

Ashton’s favorite subjects are science, math and history, and she said she would consider archaeology if piloting a space shuttle doesn’t happen.

Exploring space is a bigger goal for her, however.

“I want to go to Mars,” Ashton said. “I also like (to learn about) Saturn and Neptune because they’re pretty, and I don’t think Pluto is a dwarf planet.”

Contact Audrey Spencer at or (254) 501-7476

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