Astronaut, space walker, STEM superstar
Last year, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir made history as part of the first all-woman spacewalk, along with fellow astronaut Christina Koch. The goal of the October 18th spacewalk was to replace a failed power controller on the International Space Station, but it became a powerful symbol of how the astronaut program—and the world—has changed since NASA first began recruiting women astronauts in 1978.
For Jessica—a.k.a. Dr. Meir, thanks to her Ph.D. in marine biology—her first spacewalk was a chance to live out a childhood dream. She still remembers drawing a picture of herself as an astronaut when she was in the first grade. But as she stepped out into zero gravity, she left the weight of “being a first” behind, focusing on the spacewalk and mission at hand.
“I will never forget that moment, coming out of the hatch, looking down, and just seeing my boots and the earth below. It was a spectacular and beautiful sight.”
- Dr. Jessica Meir
Of course, Jessica’s journey to becoming an astronaut wasn’t as simple as dreaming it. In her 1995 high school yearbook, she wrote: “Future plan: To go for a spacewalk.” But it wasn’t until 2013 that she was chosen for the astronaut training program out of 6,000 applicants. It was the first class of astronaut candidates to have an equal ratio of men and women.
“If I can inspire a child to do something—to look at the world a little bit differently, to delve into a scientific question—anything that sparks their imagination, then that is an honor.”
- Dr. Jessica Meir
So how did Jessica breakthrough 6,000 applicants to become one of eight trainees? During the 18 years between high school and training to be an astronaut, Jessica lived what seems like a lifetime of scientific exploration and adventure with the encouragement of her family, friends, and mentors.
This lifelong love for STEM is what kept her preserving through the three tries that it took her to be admitted into the astronaut program—and it’s a passion she hopes to foster in other young women, too. She recently had a chance to do that, live from the International Space Station, by answering questions for girls with big dreams just like hers.
Through it all, her passion for STEM, space, and our planet’s place in the universe has never wavered. If anything, her work as a scientist on Earth only increased her awe and appreciation for it—and kept her persevering through the three tries that it took her to be admitted into the astronaut program. “Seeing this magnificent planet Earth and seeing the beauty of our planet and really understanding how special it is, how fragile it is,” she says, serves as a reminder of “how important it is to protect it … to take good care of our home planet … to be a good steward in our universe.”
Jessica Meir is attached to an articulating portable foot restraint during a spacewalk with Christina Koch (upper right) to finalize upgrading power systems on the International Space Station.
Jessica Meir prepares to have her Sokol suit pressure checked a few hours ahead of her launch on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft headed to the International Space Station on September 25, 2019.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, who completed the first all-female spacewalk in October 2019, prepare for an additional spacewalk to install new lithium-ion batteries on the space station.
What’s next for Jessica now that she’s fulfilled her biggest childhood dream of walking in space? “Another dream would be to go to the moon,” she said. “That’s always the image I had from the very first drawing I did when I said I wanted to be an astronaut in the first grade … So maybe I’ll make that my new dream.”