Sweden’s Jessica Meir could become the first woman on the moon

On Saturday, NASA canceled the scheduled launch of the Orion space capsule due to problems with a leaky fuel tank. For 37 days, Orion would travel to the moon and back, finally landing in the Pacific Ocean.

It was the first planned space flight in the Artemis program. The goal is to return humans to the Moon, for the first time since the Apollo program was canceled 50 years ago. On December 14, 1972, Apollo 17 left the moon, and since then there have been no humans.

This time there will be no humans on board, only the three puppet captains Captain Monekin Campos, Helga and Zohar. In Artemis II, planned for 2024, four astronauts will make a trip around the moon. First, in Artemis III, in 2025, two astronauts will land near the south pole of the moon. Next, the first woman and first non-white astronaut will walk on the moon, according to NASA.


Photo: Paul Hansen

One of them could be Jessica Meir.

– I would really like to go to the moon. My first vivid memories of it were when I was in first grade, drawing what we wanted to be when we grew up. She says: I drew a picture of an astronaut standing on the moon.

Jessica Meir was born In the United States, with a mother from Västerås and a father from Israel. Her two older sisters were born in Sweden, and she holds both American and Swedish citizenship. When she went to the ISS in September 2019, she became the first Swedish woman in space and the second Swedish citizen after Krister Vogelsang.

In June of this year, Jessica Meir visited Sweden, giving a lecture at the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, in Stockholm.

My dream of going to space has come true. But reaching the moon is the real dream. Now she says it is a dream come true.

NASA has selected nine men and nine women, one of whom is Jessica Meir, for the first Artemis team. She is thus one of 18 astronauts who could go on Artemis II or III. Most of them have been in space before, but other than that they have very different backgrounds.

It’s one of the things that makes life as an astronaut so exciting right now. When the space program began, all astronauts were pretty much the same. They were white military test pilots. Then it makes sense. Test the craft. We knew nothing of what would happen to the human body in space. We didn’t even know if the spacecraft was working as it was supposed to, says Jessica Meir.

The lives of astronauts are much more than just research.


Photo: Paul Hansen

Now astronauts’ lives revolve more around research.

Some of us are biologists, but we’re probably in the minority. Still, most of them have an engineering degree. But any branch of science can lead to a career in space.

Above all, people who work well in groups are selected.

– He’s someone you can imagine going on a camping trip with, who takes care of his stuff and doesn’t throw trash everywhere, can fix things that break down and can cook dinner. That’s the kind of people we choose, says Jessica Meir.

Jessica Meir Road To space by teaching biology.

– I wanted to be an astronaut, and I applied for all kinds of space-related activities that I could find. But biology was my favorite subject. I’ve always said I can do both in parallel, she says.

After her degree in biology, she taught for a year at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, then got a job as a research coordinator at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. There she helped train astronauts and plan experiments aboard the International Space Station.

The desire to conduct research on her own soon grew, and Jessica Meir began earning a Ph.D. in marine biology.

– I came across research in animal physiology that really amazed me, which combines the things I love: working outdoors and spending time in nature. She says it’s something I got from my Swedish mother.

Research group Jessica Meir It belongs to the study animals that can withstand extreme conditions, such as geese that can fly over the Himalayas, emperor penguins in Antarctica and elephant seals in northern California.

– They are unusual animals that can hold their breath for 30 minutes. It is not something I would recommend. We humans are nowhere near this ability. I really wanted to understand more about what is in their physiology that allows them to do that.

Jessica Meir went to Antarctica several times, put measuring devices on the penguins and dived with them under the ice.

There is no better place to snorkel than Antarctica. It is the place where all life is. There are giant sponges, large starfish and sea spiders. It’s so big because it’s adapted to being able to live in cold water, she says.

Experiences from Antarctica are also valuable for those who want to become astronauts.

Admission interview is very different from normal job interview. Nobody cares about your scientific publications, or the journals in which you are published. But they do take care of spending your time fixing a snowmobile or welding a microprocessor.

Jessica Meir received her Ph.D. in 2009. Four years later, she was accepted into NASA to begin training to become an astronaut.

You think the 200 days I spent aboard the International Space Station went by too fast. She also returned to a world completely different from the one she left.

– In September 2019, when we left, there was no COVID-19. So we had to follow the outbreak from the space station. When we came back in April 2020, everything was different on this planet.

One of the goals of the Artemis program is to return pebbles and rocks from the moon so you can examine them more closely. It’s also a first step toward building a space station on the Moon and eventually being able to send astronauts into space, like Mars.

I don’t think Mars flights will happen during my astronaut career. But it would be great to see that happen in my life. Jessica Meir says going to the moon is totally enough for me.

The path to becoming an astronaut varies from person to person.

But we have one thing in common that we do what we love. We got where we are because we followed our passion, worked hard, took risks, and failed. I think this is the recipe if you want to make your dreams come true, says Jessica Meir.

– People used to say I’m lucky to have such a lucid dream of what I want to do. But at the same time I thought that the chance of becoming an astronaut was very small, so it might never happen. So I made sure to find something else to do that makes me happy too.

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