NASA astronaut Jessica Meir is seen aboard the International Space Station during her six-month mission that began in September 2019. Credit: Courtesy of NASA

Maine astronaut Jessica Meir could be the first woman to walk on the moon in 2024 after being named to a team that will work on NASA’s first manned mission since 1972. 

Meir, who was born and raised in Caribou, was tapped on Wednesday to join NASA’s Artemis Team, a group of nine men and nine women. Mission assignments have not yet been made, but one man and one woman from the group will be chosen to make the 238,900-mile trip. 

The Maine native had a long career as a scientist before being selected by NASA as an astronaut in 2013. Meir is perhaps most famous for having been one half — along with Christina Koch — of the first all-female spacewalk on Oct. 18, 2019. 

The pair’s 7-hour, 17-minute spacewalk made international headlines and earned the pair a congratulatory call from President Donald Trump. Koch will join Meir on the Artemis Team.

During an interview as part of a Bangor Daily News event series in November, Meir said she was excited about the potential for future travel to the moon and Mars. 

“It’s not up to me, but I would definitely volunteer to be one of those crew members who would return to the moon — if not, to be involved from the ground,” Meir said.

Before joining NASA in 2013, Meir had a distinguished career as a marine biologist and physiologist, including a stint as an assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. She dove with penguins in Antarctica as part of the research that led to her getting a doctorate in marine biology in 2009. 

But it is her time with the space agency that has brought her international fame, especially after the widely celebrated all-female spacewalk. The event led Time Magazine to name her and Koch two of the 100 most influential people of 2020.

A proud Mainer, her time on the International Space Station also gave her the distinction of being the first Maine woman to go into space. In October 2019, Meir spoke in Caribou via broadcast link from space, answering questions from students. She said that she would like to return to her hometown as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic ends. 

“It makes things more real when people can see someone who came from the same background and place as they did,” Meir said.

Meir, who spent nearly seven months in space from September 2019 to April 2020, said she enjoyed her time at the International Space Station and did not want to leave.

The last manned mission to the moon was the Apollo 17 mission, which occurred in December 1972.

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