NASA’s Jessica Meir Is a Jewish Astronaut
Jessica Meir has traveled from Antarctica to Mongolia to study animals in extreme environments. For her next trip, the 40-year-old Jewish woman is going even further: outer space.
After undergoing rigorous training, which included water and wilderness survival and learning to fly a T38 Talon aircraft, Meir was selected by NASA in 2013 for its 21st astronaut class. She is featured in the PBS documentary Beyond a Year in Space—about this class of astronauts—which aired in November and is available to stream at pbs.org. In the film, Meir says that watching news coverage of NASA missions in the 1980s and 1990s while growing up in Caribou, Maine, sparked her desire to become an astronaut.
A number of women—including three Jews—have participated in earlier missions, so for Meir, who has completed training and is awaiting a launch assignment to the International Space Station, it “really feels normal” to be a Jewish female astronaut today.
Her path from animal research to space flight is not as accidental as it may seem. Meir, who now lives in Houston, said the common thread of her work is exploration. “Scientific curiosity and understanding the world around us has been the driving theme of my work as a physiologist,” she explained.
When she does go on her first mission, it will be a multidisciplinary experience. “We’ll all be doing science,” said Meir, “we’ll all be doing space walks and maintenance. That’s what I like about this job—you are always using different aspects of your brain.”