HOUSTON, Texas — From her home in Caribou, a five-year-old Jessica Meir used to gaze at the stars, so often clear in Maine's northern skies, and dream of flying in space. Now at 41, Meir's dream is coming true as she is scheduled to take flight on Expedition 61 this September.
At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Meir is in her final training, preparing to co-pilot a Soyuz rocket into space. Meir, who has a Ph.D. in Physiology, will use her training to study and develop astronaut protocol as NASA continues its quest to colonize the moon and go to Mars.
“This really is a dream come true,” she told NEWSCENTER Maine after her morning workout at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Meir has followed her passion for science and learning despite pitfalls in her way. She always hoped of becoming an astronaut but thought her dreams were dashed when she was not selected in 2009.
However, when another class was chosen she was one of the six selected from 8,000 candidates in 2015.
Meir is the daughter of immigrants, her father was a doctor in Caribou where Jessica was born and grew up. She excelled in academics and athletes and graduated valedictorian of her class from Caribou High School in 1995 before going on to Brown University where she majored in math.
NASA allowed us to join Meir as she worked out on a zero-gravity weight machine known as A-Red. Expedition 61 will be Meir's first trip into space and she is expecting to stay six months.
The United States currently has 38 astronauts, two are from Maine.
Chris Cassidy of York is preparing for his third trip into space as Meir prepares for her first. Cassidy is one of the most respected astronauts in the program.
Cassidy went to the Naval Academy before beginning a distinguished career as a Navy SEAL. Within weeks after 9-11, he was leading a Ranger team through caves in Afghanistan, action for which he was awarded a Bronze Star.
Cassidy has spent 181 days in space and participated in six spacewalks.
“When you step outside and the earth is flashing by below you, it really makes you think,” Cassidy mused at the space center.
On one of his flights, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano experienced difficulty as his space helmet started to fill up with water. Cassidy is credited with helping to save Parmitano by getting him back into the spacecraft just in time.
Parmitano will pilot Expedition 61, on which Meir will fly in space.