November 08, 2019
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Maine astronaut Jessica Meir has achieved her lifelong dream. Now she’s ready to take on the moon.

Courtesy of NASA
Courtesy of NASA
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir waves at the camera Friday during a spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch (out of frame). They ventured into the vacuum of space for seven hours and 17 minutes to swap a failed battery charge-discharge unit with a spare during the first all-woman spacewalk. The unit regulates the charge to the batteries that collect and distribute solar power to the orbiting lab’s systems.

Nearly 25 years ago, Jessica Meir wrote in her high school yearbook that her dream was to go on a spacewalk.

Well, she realized that dream Friday when she left the International Space Station for what became the first all-female spacewalk. But Meir isn’t content to stop there: her next dream is a moonshot.

“I finally checked that box and lived that dream, and now what’s next I’m not sure,” Meir told NASA TV on Monday when asked about her next cosmic dream. “But I think another dream would be to go to the moon. That’s always the image I had from the very first drawing I did when I said I wanted to be an astronaut in the first grade was standing on the surface of the moon. I think maybe I’ll make that my new dream.”

The last manned mission to the moon was in December 1972. In July, the Trump administration set a goal to return to the moon by 2024.

Meir and her fellow astronaut Christina Koch ventured outside the International Space Station on Friday for a seven-hour-and-17-minute spacewalk to repair a faulty battery discharge unit installed only days earlier. That spacewalk, the first all-female spacewalk, came seven months after NASA scrapped a planned spacewalk by Koch and Anne McClain because it did not have two properly fitted spacesuits. Meir and Koch were originally scheduled to take a spacewalk on Monday before NASA accelerated those plans.

[This man got a phone call from Maine astronaut Jessica Meir at the International Space Station]

For Meir, though, that was just part of the job, saying in an interview earlier this month, “we’re just part of the team, and we’re doing this work as an efficient team working together with everybody else.”

But she added: “It’s really nice to see how far that we’ve come.”

The spacewalk was Meir’s first and Koch’s fourth, according to NASA. Meir is the 15th woman to be sent into space.

Before leaving Earth’s atmosphere in September, Meir trained for a future spacewalks at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at the Johnson Space Center. As part of that training, Meir donned a 350-pound pressurized space suit before being lowered into a 40-foot-deep pool to work on a life-sized replica of a part of the space station.

On Monday, she told NASA TV what surprised her most about the spacewalk was the difficulty of keeping herself stable. In the buoyancy lab, she said the drag of the water kept her stable when she stopped moving, but in space even the slightest movement can send her spinning.

“When you’re in space, the slightest motion will keep you spinning, keep you turning. … I was still surprised by how unstable you would be if you imparted motion in any direction,” Meir told NASA TV.

Meir, who is from Caribou, arrived on Sept. 25 at the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and Emirati astronaut Hazz Al Mansouri. She is about a month into her six-month mission. Meir is scheduled to return to Earth in spring 2020.

[Jessica Meir becomes the first Maine woman to journey into space]

Meir, the valedictorian of Caribou High School’s Class of 1995, was among three women and four men selected from 6,100 applicants in 2013 for NASA’s 21st class of astronauts. She is the third Mainer, and first Maine woman, to enter into outer space, the others being Christopher Cassidy, a York High School graduate who has completed six spacewalks and served as the nation’s chief astronaut from 2013 to 2017, and Charles O. Hobaugh, a Bar Harbor native who has made three spaceflights.

Her partner for Friday’s spacewalk, Koch, also is a member of the 21st class of astronauts. Koch is slated to set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman with an expected total of 328 days in space, according to NASA.

Five spacewalks are on the schedule for November and December to repair a cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, according to NASA. NASA postponed October’s remaining spacewalks to upgrade the space station’s power system after the battery discharge unit malfunctioned. It was not immediately clear when those spacewalks would resume.

When asked on NASA TV whether Meir and Koch could pair up for future spacewalks, Meir said that remains a possibility with the number on the schedule over the next two months.

“There’s a chance that Christina and I could go out the door again together, but right now we don’t know, those assignments haven’t been made yet,” Meir said.

 



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