Jessica Meir

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Jessica Meir
Jessica U. Meir portrait.jpg
Born (1977-07-01) July 1, 1977 (age 41)
NationalityAmerican/Swedish[citation needed]
Alma materScripps Institution of Oceanography
International Space University
Brown University
Space career
NASA Astronaut
Selection2013 NASA Group

Jessica Ulrika Meir (born July 1, 1977) is an American astronaut and an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, following postdoctoral research in comparative physiology at the University of British Columbia.[1][2] She has studied the diving physiology and behavior of emperor penguins in Antarctica,[3] and the physiology of bar-headed geese, which are able to migrate over the Himalayas.[4] In 2000, Meir graduated with a Master of Space Studies from the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. In September 2002, Meir served as an aquanaut on the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations 4 (NEEMO 4) crew.[5] In June 2013 she was named an astronaut candidate by NASA, becoming one of the eight members of NASA Astronaut Group 21.

Early life and career[edit]

Jessica Meir was born in Caribou, Maine on July 1, 1977, to a Native American-Swedish mother (who was a nurse) and an Iraqi-Israeli father, who worked as a physician. While growing up in a Jewish environment, she was inspired to venture into space after watching the Space Shuttle missions on television, and wanted to continue the adventurous dreams of her father who encouraged her ambition. Jessica attended a space camp at Purdue University[6] and took a ride in the NASA reduced gravity aircraft during her undergraduate course. Despite initial disappointment at the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011, Meir continued to pursue her space career and later worked for Lockheed Martin’s Human Research Facility at the NASA Johnson Space Center, supporting human physiology research on the space shuttle and ISS.[7]

Comparative physiology research[edit]

Meir earned a Ph.D. from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Her Ph.D. research involved the diving physiology of emperor penguins and northern elephant seals.[8][9] Meir spent time in Antarctica at a site called Penguin Ranch furthering her research into the diving abilities of the emperor penguin, scuba diving alongside the penguins under the ice.[9] She also studied elephant seals while they were diving in the Pacific Ocean off Northern California.[9]

Meir's current[when?] research involves bar-headed geese, which are able to tolerate extreme altitudes and low oxygen levels while flying over the Himalayas.[4][9]

NASA career[edit]

Meir worked for three years at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.[10] She worked for Lockheed Martin Space Operations as an experiment support scientist for the Human Research Facility at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). Meir coordinated and supported human space life science experiments that were performed by astronauts on space shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) missions. These experiments included physiological studies (bone loss, muscle control/atrophy, lung function, etc.) to determine if any bodily processes were altered in the spaceflight environment. Meir guided these experiments through the necessary review cycles, developed procedures that the astronauts would use on-orbit, trained crew members, and provided ground support in the Mission Control Center while the astronauts were performing the experiments on the shuttle or ISS.[11]

Meir at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in 2019

As the daughter of immigrant parents (her mother is Swedish and her late father was an Iraqi-Israeli physician) growing up in remote Caribou, Maine, Meir didn’t know anybody who worked for NASA or for the space program in any way. She attributes her abiding dream of personally participating in space exploration to the love of nature she learned from her mother, and from her father’s predilection for wandering and adventure.

“And it might have had something to do with the fact that the stars shone so brightly in rural Maine,” Meir added.

Meir attended space camp in her youth, and flew in NASA’s famous zero-gravity simulator “Vomit Comet” while a Brown University undergraduate student. She later worked for Lockheed Martin’s Human Research Facility at the NASA Johnson Space Center, supporting human physiology research on the space shuttle and ISS.

She also participated in research flights on NASA’s reduced gravity aircraft, and served as an aquanaut crew member in the Aquarius underwater habitat for the 4th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission, before completing her doctorate in marine biology (diving physiology) from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of California San Diego).

In September 2002, Meir served as an aquanaut on the joint NASA-NOAA NEEMO 4 expedition (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations), an exploration research mission held in Aquarius, an undersea research laboratory four miles off shore from Key Largo. Meir and her crewmates spent five days saturation diving from the Aquarius habitat as a space analogue for working and training under extreme environmental conditions. The mission was delayed due to Hurricane Isadore, forcing National Undersea Research Center managers to shorten it to an underwater duration of five days. Then, three days into their underwater mission, the crew members were told that Tropical Storm Lili was headed in their direction and to prepare for an early departure from Aquarius. Fortunately, Lili degenerated to the point where it was no longer a threat, so the crew was able to remain the full five days.[5][12]

At the time of NEEMO 4, Meir was leaning toward pursuing a PhD in a field related to evolutionary biology and/or life in extreme environments (astrobiology). She was also fascinated by marine biology (which suited the NEEMO mission well), and hoped to coordinate a specific topic of study to combine these main interests.[11] She received her PhD in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, studying diving physiology, in 2009.[13] She continues to study the physiology of animals in extreme environments.[13]

In 2009, Meir was a semi-finalist for selection as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 20.[14] For the following selection, on June 17, 2013, Meir was named as a candidate for astronaut training by NASA, becoming one of the eight members of NASA Astronaut Group 21.[2] She completed training in July 2015.[15]

Meir is a member of the science advisory board of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.[16]

Expedition 61/62[edit]

Meir is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on board Soyuz MS-15 in September 2019, as a member of Expeditions 61 and 62. She is due to return to Earth in the spring of 2020.[17]


Meir and fellow astronaut Christina Koch, NASA interview

Meir has received numerous awards including:

  • Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO);
  • Scholar Award (2008); Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS);
  • Fellowship (2006);
  • Lockheed Martin Space Operations (LMSO);
  • Special Recognition Award (2002);
  • NASA JSC Space and Life Sciences Directorate Special Professional Achievement Award (2002);
  • Lockheed Martin Technology Services "Lightning Award" (2002).[18]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ Scott, Graham R.; Meir, Jessica Ulrika; Hawkes, Lucy A.; Frappell, Peter B.; Milsom, William K.; Llanos, Anibal J.; Ebensperger, German; Herrera, Emilio A.; Reyes, Roberto Victor; Moraga, Fernando A.; Parer, Julian T.; Giussani, Dino A. (July 1, 2011). "Point: Counterpoint "High Altitude is / is not for the Birds!"". American Physiological Society. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  2. ^ a b National Aeronautics and Space Administration. "2013 Astronaut Class". NASA. Archived from the original on June 21, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  3. ^ Knight, Kathryn (May 12, 2011). "Penguins continue diving long after muscles run out of oxygen". ScienceDaily LLC. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Arnold, Carrie (April 15, 2011). "Sky's No Limit in High-Flying Goose Chase". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  5. ^ a b NASA (April 21, 2011). "Life Sciences Data Archive : Experiment". NASA. Archived from the original on March 22, 2012. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  6. ^ "Astronaut from Aroostook County will soon go on her 1st spaceflight". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Williams, CL; Meir, JU; Ponganis, PJ (June 1, 2011). "What triggers the aerobic dive limit? Patterns of muscle oxygen depletion during dives of emperor penguins". The Journal of Experimental Biology. 214: 1802–1812. doi:10.1242/jeb.052233. PMC 3092726. PMID 21562166.
  9. ^ a b c d Kwok, Roberta (April 24, 2011). "Secrets of the world's extreme divers". Science News for Kids. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  10. ^ Price, Mary Lynn. "Women Working in Antarctica". Mary Lynn Price. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Meir, Jessica. ":: NASA Quest > Space :: Meet Jessica Meir". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Archived from the original on October 16, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  12. ^ NASA (March 21, 2006). "NEEMO History". NASA. Archived from the original on October 8, 2006. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  13. ^ a b "NASA Candidate Biography". December 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  14. ^ "Biographies of Astronaut and Cosmonaut Candidates: Jessica Meir". Spacefacts. March 27, 2010. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  15. ^ "NASA's Newest Astronauts Complete Training". NASA. 9 July 2015.
  16. ^ D'Aliesio, Renata (May 26, 2011). "Extreme trekkers, citizen scientists". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  17. ^ "NASA Announces First Flight, Record-Setting Mission". NASA. 16 April 2019.
  18. ^ Roberts, Jason (2015-02-11). "Johnson Space Center Home". Retrieved 2016-07-01.

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