Jessica U. Meir of Caribou, Maine has been undergoing rigorous training as a member of NASA’s 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class and few years short of her childhood dream to go to space. If she completes her training successfully, she would be on Orion spacecraft to go to Mars in 2022.
A graduate from Brown University, post-graduate from the International Space University, and a doctorate from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Meir was an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, when NASA selected her as part of the 8-member team to train for its manned Mars mission.
When she was 5, she drew her vision to land on Mars with a picture of an astornaut in space. She was able to attend a space camp at Purdue University at age 13 and now aged 37, her dream is likely to come true in less than a decade.
Unlike many astronauts, instead of physics, she majored in biology and her role in the team will be unique. She dived into Antarctica to learn how penguins swin inside the waters without oxygen and climbed up the Himalayas to know how the bar-headed geese fly at high altitudes.
Studying herself and other humans in space, she wants to extrapolate her findings to a better survival mode on Mars. “While you’re conducting this science and learning along the way, you’re also testing your body and your strength,” she said.
What is her training? Everyday, she visits the neutral-buoyancy lab to get familiar with gavirty-less world, followed by training in engineering and of course, Russian language to interact with the cosonauts in the space, especially at the International Space Station.
Already she has learnt to fly jets, one training that is “phenomenal” in her description as it is more real than simulated neutral buoyancy labs. “I have my private pilot’s license but I’m really excited about going to Pensacola for real flight training in jets,” she says.
As none of the eight astronauts know when they’d get to fly, they are just watching with crossed-fingers hoping they would be in the first pioneering group of astronauts to be sent on Orion spacecraft to Mars in 2022 by NASA.
“Mars has always captured the human imagination for decades and decades, it’s always been the planet that everyone’s looking toward,” she told Washington Post. “Knowing it’s out there, it’s what drives everything that we do.”