Aroostook County native Jessica Meir will again venture outside the International Space Station for two spacewalks later this month.
Meir and fellow astronaut Christina Koch are scheduled for spacewalks on Jan. 15 and Jan. 20 when they will finish replacing nickel-hydrogen batteries with lithium-ion batteries that will store energy generated by the space station’s solar arrays, NASA said Wednesday.
These will mark Meir’s second and third spacewalks, while they will be Koch’s fifth and sixth, according to NASA.
This month’s spacewalks come about three months after Meir and Koch made history when they embarked on the first all-female spacewalk. That mission, on Oct. 18, 2019, was to replace a newly installed battery unit that had failed. It came almost seven months after NASA scrapped its planned all-female spacewalk by Koch and Anne McClain because it did not have two properly fitted space suits.
Meir, who is from Caribou, arrived on Sept. 25, 2019, at the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and Emirati astronaut Hazz Al Mansouri. She will be stationed there until spring 2020.
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.
After that milestone mission, Meir told NASA-TV in October 2019 that, having accomplished her goal to take a spacewalk, she was setting her sights on 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,” she told NASA-TV.
If the upcoming spacewalks go as planned, NASA said Wednesday that NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and space station Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency will go on a Jan. 25 spacewalk to finish installing the alpha magnetic spectrometer’s new cooling apparatus and lines and verify they are ready for use.
The alpha magnetic spectrometer is sifting through cosmic ray particles to collect data that scientists from 16 countries here on Earth will use to determine the composition and origin of the universe, to look for the origins of dark matter, and to look for clues of the existence of antimatter, according to NASA.