Jessica Meir traveled the world from Antarctic to Belize to research animal physiology, she’s even raised her own geese for science, but this month Meir will leave Earth for her first outer space adventure.
Meir, a graduate of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, will embark on a six-month mission to the International Space Station to study how the human body changes in outer space.
Accompanied by Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, the first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates, Meir will join six other astronauts currently aboard the orbital outpost.
Dubbed Expeditions 61 and 62, the team will gather research to support roughly 250 experiments, according to NASA.
“We’ll be using ourselves as subjects,” Meir told Times of San Diego. “Any type of science experiment you can think of… You name it, we’re doing it.”
Meir, who was selected for astronaut training in 2013 and began intense training for this particular mission just two years ago, said she’s curious to see how spaceflight changes the human body and what research can be developed to help future astronauts.
For example, Meir said, past studies showed the human body loses bone density in microgravity, which prompted the development of exercise equipment for astronauts that can be used in outer space.
“Human physiology has become a lot smarter,” Meir said. “We now have exercise equipment that pretty much eliminates the bone density we’ve seen in the past.”
Meir also touched on research conducted by Japanese astronauts on high quality protein crystals that now helps in the development of pharmaceuticals.
“The human body ages about 20 years in microgravity during a six-month mission,” Meir said. “By using ourselves for research, we’ll collect data that will be pivotal to our future missions. We need to understand what happens to our bodies to get astronauts to their destinations safely.”
The astronauts hope their research will help future long-duration missions to the moon and Mars.
Prior to joining NASA, the Maine native earned her doctorate in marine biology from Scripps in 2009 and studied animals ranging from seals to penguins. She also worked as an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital.
However, at 42, Meir said she’s now embarking on the mission she’s been preparing for her entire life.
“I’ve envisioned myself doing this my whole life,” Meir said. “I would absolutely love to be the first woman to be on the moon. I think it’s time to go back and it’s time for a woman to be there.”
The Scripps community will be hosting a live viewing party of the Sept. 25 launch, which is scheduled for 6:57 a.m. Pacific time at Surfside Lounge. For more information, go to
The public can also view the launch at nasa.gov/live.
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