Jessica Meir

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Jessica Meir
Jessica Meir official portrait in an EMU.jpg
Jessica Meir in September 2018
Born (1977-07-01) July 1, 1977 (age 42)
NationalityAmerican and Swedish dual citizenship
Alma materScripps Institution of Oceanography
International Space University
Brown University
Occupationastronaut, physiologist
Space career
NASA Astronaut
Time in space
Currently in space
Selection2013 NASA Group
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
7h 17m
MissionsSoyuz MS-15 (Expedition 61/62)
Mission insignia
Soyuz-MS-15-Mission-Patch.png ISS Expedition 61 Patch.svg ISS Expedition 62 Patch.png
Scientific career
ThesisBlood oxygen transport and depletion: The key of consummate divers (2009)
Doctoral advisorPaul Ponganis
Other academic advisorsBill Milsom (post doc)

Jessica Ulrika Meir (IPA: /mɪər/; m-eer; born July 1, 1977) is a NASA astronaut, marine biologist, and physiologist. She was previously 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 September 2002, Meir served as an aquanaut on the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations 4 (NEEMO 4) crew.[5] In 2013 she was selected by NASA to Astronaut Group 21. Meir launched on September 25, 2019, to the ISS onboard Soyuz MS-15, where she will serve as a flight Engineer during Expedition 61 and 62.[6] On October 18, 2019, Meir and Christina Koch were the first women to participate in an all-female spacewalk.

Early life and career[edit]

Jessica Meir was born in Caribou, Maine, to a Swedish mother who was a nurse and an Israeli father of Iraqi-Jewish descent, who worked as a physician. Her mother is from Västerås, Sweden; her father was born in Iraq and moved to Israel as a child. He later moved to Sweden where he met Meir's mother who grew up in a Christian family. The couple moved to Maine where Meir was born.[7]

Although her mother did not convert, Meir grew up attending synagogue in Presque Isle, Maine.[7] She was inspired to venture into space after watching the Space Shuttle missions on television. Meir knew no one who worked for NASA or for the space program. 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.[8]

At the age of 13, Meir attended a youth space camp at Purdue University.[9][10][11] During her undergraduate biology studies at Brown University, she also spent a semester in a study abroad program in Stockholm and ran a student experiment on a NASA reduced gravity aircraft "vomit comet" in her senior year.[8][10] Meir graduated from Brown in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree Biology, with Honors, magna cum laude.[12] In 2000, Meir graduated with a Master of Space Studies from the International Space University in Strasbourg, France.[13]

Comparative physiology research[edit]

Meir earned a Ph.D. in marine biology in 2009 from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for research on the diving physiology of emperor penguins and northern elephant seals.[12][14][15] Meir performed field work at Penguin Ranch on McMurdo Sound in Antarctica to study the diving abilities of the emperor penguin while scuba diving alongside them under the ice.[16][15] She also studied elephant seals while they were diving in the Pacific Ocean off Northern California.[15]

Meir did post-doctoral research at the University of British Columbia, raising bar-headed geese so their tolerance of high altitude and low oxygen levels during flight over the Himalayas could be studied in a controlled environment.[4][15] For the 2012 academic year she continued her research as an assistant professor of anesthesia at the Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital and then took a leave of absence to enter the astronaut corps.[17]

NASA career[edit]

After getting her master's degree, Meir worked from 2000–2003 for Lockheed Martin Space Operations as an experiment support scientist for the Human Research Facility at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.[18][19] 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.[20]

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][21]

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.[20] She received her PhD in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, studying diving physiology, in 2009.[18]

In 2009, Meir was a semi-finalist for selection to NASA Astronaut Group 20.[22] For the next selection group in June 2013, Meir was chosen as one of eight astronaut candidates for training in NASA Astronaut Group 21.[2] She completed training in July 2015.[23]

During her time in the astronaut office, Meir has served as the capsule communicator for various missions. She was the lead capsule communicator for Expedition 47, the BEAM mission, and a HTV (Japanese Space Agency cargo vehicle) mission.[citation needed]

Meir is a member of the science advisory board of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.[24]

Jessica Meir waving at the camera during her EVA on October 18
Jessica Meir during her EVA on October 18

Expedition 61/62[edit]

Meir launched to the International Space Station on board Soyuz MS-15 on September 25, 2019, as a flight engineer for Expeditions 61 and 62. She is was scheduled to perform three spacewalks during this mission to help install new lithium-ion batteries on the Port-6 truss structure of the ISS, although this schedule was later changed.[25][26] On October 18, 2019, Meir performed her first spacewalk alongside her colleague Christina Koch, replacing a faulty Battery Charging Discharging Unit. The unit had unexpectedly failed to activate, preventing the station's newly installed lithium-ion batteries from providing additional power.[27]The three other scheduled spacewalks scheduled to install the new batteries had to be postponed in order to perform this spacewalk.[26]

The spacewalk lasted for seven hours and 17 minutes, and was the first all-female spacewalk in history. During the spacewalk US president Donald Trump called and spoke to the astronauts in recognition of the historical significance of this event.[28][29][30][31]

Meir is due to return to Earth in the spring of 2020.[32] Due to holding dual American and Swedish citizenship, she is the first Swedish woman in space, and the second Swedish national in space overall.[33]

Personal life[edit]

Meir played flute, piccolo, and saxophone as a youth, and enjoys reading classical literature. She spent a semester studying at Stockholm University in Sweden during her undergraduate years.[20] She speaks Swedish and Russian (required for astronaut training).[34] Meir enjoys recreational cycling, hiking, running, skiing, soccer and scuba diving, and holds a private pilot's license.[18]


Meir has received numerous awards including:[18]

  • 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).


  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!"". Journal of Applied Physiology. American Physiological Society. 111 (5): 1514–1515. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00821.2011. PMID 21737822.
  2. ^ a b Roberts, Jason. "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". Science Daily. 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 "Life Sciences Data Archive: Experiment". NASA. April 21, 2011. Archived from the original on March 22, 2012. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  6. ^ Graham, Gillian (September 8, 2019). "Astronaut from Maine prepares for takeoff". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Dolsten, Josefin (May 9, 2019). "Swedish-Israeli NASA astronaut Jessica Meir gets ready for space". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Ghert-Zand, Renee (June 1, 2018). "No Risk, No Reward Says Fearless Jewish Astronaut Jessica Meir". The Times of Israel. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  9. ^ Burns, Christopher (April 17, 2019). "Astronaut from Aroostook County will soon go on her 1st spaceflight". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Meet Jessica Meir". NASA Quest. Archived from the original on May 4, 2003. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  11. ^ Kaplan, Sarah (April 28, 2015). "Journey to Mars: Meet NASA astronaut candidate Jessica Meir". Washington Post.
  12. ^ a b Meir, Jessica Ulrika (2009). Blood oxygen transport and depletion: The key of consummate divers (Ph.D. thesis). University of California, San Diego. ISBN 978-1-109-31853-1. OCLC 449187875. ProQuest 304852089.
  13. ^ "Three I's of ISU Influential to 2013 NASA Astronaut Candidate Jessica Meir". International Space University. 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  14. ^ 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 (11): 1802–1812. doi:10.1242/jeb.052233. PMC 3092726. PMID 21562166.
  15. ^ a b c d Kwok, Roberta (April 24, 2011). "Secrets of the world's extreme divers". Science News for Students. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  16. ^ Ponganis, Paul (May 19, 2008). "A Season at the Penguin Ranch in Antarctica". National Science Foundation. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  17. ^ Powell, Alvin (September 6, 2013). "Destination Space". The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d Whiting, Melanie (September 25, 2019). "Jessica U. Meir (PH.D.) NASA Astronaut". Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  19. ^ Price, Mary Lynn. "Jessica Meir, Emperor Penguin Researcher in Antarctica". Women Working in Antarctica. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  20. ^ a b c Meir, Jessica. ":: NASA Quest > Space :: Meet Jessica Meir". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Archived from the original on May 4, 2003. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  21. ^ "NEEMO History". NASA. March 21, 2006. Archived from the original on October 8, 2006. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  22. ^ Becker, Joachim Wilhelm Josef; Janssen, Heinz Hermann (March 27, 2010). "Biographies of Astronaut and Cosmonaut Candidates: Jessica Meir". Spacefacts. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  23. ^ "NASA's Newest Astronauts Complete Training". NASA. July 9, 2015.
  24. ^ D'Aliesio, Renata (May 26, 2011). "Extreme trekkers, citizen scientists". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  25. ^ "Expedition 60 – Space Station". NASA. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  26. ^ a b "In-Space News Conference to Review First All-Woman Spacewalk". NASA (Press release). October 19, 2019.
  27. ^ "NASA to Televise First All-Female Spacewalk, Host Media Teleconference". NASA (Press release). October 18, 2019.
  28. ^ NASA Astronauts Spacewalk Outside the International Space Station on Oct. 18. NASA. October 18, 2019. Retrieved October 18, 2019 – via YouTube.
  29. ^ "Voor het eerst maakt vrouwelijk duo ruimtewandeling bij ISS" [For the first time a female duo is taking a space walk at ISS]. (in Dutch). October 18, 2019.
  30. ^ Garcia, Mark (October 18, 2019). "NASA TV is Live Now Broadcasting First All-Woman Spacewalk". NASA Blogs. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  31. ^ Keeter, Bill (October 18, 2019). "ISS Daily Summary Report – 10/18/2019". NASA.
  32. ^ "NASA Announces First Flight, Record-Setting Mission". NASA (Press release). April 16, 2019.
  33. ^ Näslund, Anne-Sofie (May 11, 2018). "Jessica blir första svenska kvinnan i rymden: "Trodde det var kört"" [Jessica becomes the first Swedish woman in space: "Thought it was over"]. Expressen. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  34. ^ "Astronaut Selection". NASA. Retrieved October 18, 2019.

External links[edit]