Jessica U. Meir has wanted to be an astronaut since she was five. When her first grade teacher asked the class to draw what they wanted to be when they grew up, she drew a picture of herself as an astronaut on the moon with a flag. Ever since, it’s been her dream.
She’s not going to the moon Wednesday, but she is going into space.
Meir, a PhD, will be launching into space headed for the International Space Station “supporting research experiments not possible on Earth,” NASA says.
She’ll return to Earth in the spring of 2020.
Meir, 39, is a doctor, a diver, and research scientist, and an astronaut.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. To Say Meir is Accomplished Might be a Vast Understatement
From Caribou, Maine, Meir is a graduate of Brown University, has an advanced degree from the International Space University, and earned her doctorate from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
She is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
But all she’s really ever wanted to do was fly.
2. The Mission Has Her Launching Into Space with a Russian Cosmonaut & a Astronaut from the United Arab Emirates. They Take Off Wednesday Sept. 25.
She goes by Astro Jessica on social.
“@Astro_Jessica is days away from launching to space for the first time, where she will support hundreds of research experiments not possible on Earth,” NASA tweeted.
Meir is scheduled to launch to the station with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and United Arab Emirates’ Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, a Roscosmos spaceflight participant who will return with to Earth Oct. 3.
Meir and Skripochka will return in spring 2020.
Meir’s September launch to the station will mark her first spaceflight. She was selected as an astronaut in 2013.
3. Meir Worked For Lockheed Martin’s Human Research Facility Doing Reduced Gravity Research Flights
When Meir isn’t teaching at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital, she does things like gravity research flights.
With a doctorate in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, she worked for Lockheed Martin’s Human Research Facility, participated in reduced gravity research flights.
4. Meir Is an Underwater Cave Diver
Meir is also a scuba diver. But not just to look at endangered corals or colorful fish. Meir took part in diving expeditions to the Antarctic and Belize, and served as a spaceflight analog crew member for a NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations underwater mission and a caving mission.
In an Instagram post from Earth Day, she shared an image from a cave diving excursion and training in the Sa Grutta caves in Sardinia, Italy. She said she was “lucky enough to train” as a cave diving crew member.
“Long have I raved about what lies beneath the surface of the #oceans, but I had no idea this kind of splendor lay beneath their terrestrial counterpart. This breathtaking network of caves provided invaluable training,” she said for her work as an astronaut and her mission.
5. Meir Has Hung Out With (& Studied Extensively) Geese, Penguins & Elephant Seals
The Washington Post headline reads, “This astronaut raised geese to study their hearts. The birds stole hers.”
In one of her other scientific lives, Meir’s career focused on the physiology of animals in extreme environments, studying emperor penguins in the Antarctic, elephant seals in California, and bar-headed geese in studies at the University of British Columbia and in Mongolia.
About the geese. In her research into bar-headed geese, Meir was mother goose to a gaggle and while she studied their migrations patterns, she also studied their hearts. And they flew away with hers, to borrow a headline.
Meir wrote that the study, “…provides more insight into how this bird accomplishes its iconic migration over the Himalayas.”