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Jessica Meir is shooting for the moon

Microsoft News for Good 3/2/2020

During Women's History Month, Microsoft News is celebrating the female heroes among us who have forged their own paths to make positive impacts on society and become role models for other women and girls. To show your support, please consider donating to our March fundraiser benefiting UN Women and Girls Who Code.

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© Courtesy of Jessica Mier Last year, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir made history as part of the first all-woman spacewalk, along with fellow astronaut Christina Koch. The goal of the October 18th spacewalk was to replace a failed power controller on the International Space Station, but it became a powerful symbol of how the astronaut program—and the world—has changed since NASA first began recruiting women astronauts in 1978.

For Jessica—a.k.a. Dr. Meir, thanks to her Ph.D. in marine biology—her first spacewalk was a chance to live out a childhood dream. She still remembers drawing a picture of herself as an astronaut when she was in the first grade. But as she stepped out into zero gravity, she left the weight of “being a first” behind, focusing on the spacewalk and mission at hand.

Of course, Jessica’s journey to becoming an astronaut wasn’t as simple as dreaming it. In her 1995 high school yearbook, she wrote: “Future plan: To go for a spacewalk.” But it wasn’t until 2013 that she was chosen for the astronaut training program out of 6,000 applicants. It was the first class of astronaut candidates to have an equal ratio of men and women.

Astronaut Jessica Mier looks out the Space Station window © Courtesy of Jessica Mier Astronaut Jessica Mier looks out the Space Station window

So how did Jessica breakthrough 6,000 applicants to become one of eight trainees? During the 18 years between high school and training to be an astronaut, Jessica lived what seems like a lifetime of scientific exploration and adventure with the encouragement of her family, friends, and mentors.

She studied biology at Brown University, earned her doctorate in marine biology from UCSD, studied penguins in Antarctica, earned her pilot’s license, served as an aquanaut in an underwater habitat for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, and became an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

But most of all, her passion for STEM, space, and our planet’s place in the universe never wavered. If anything, her work as a scientist on Earth only increased her awe and appreciation for it—and kept her persevering through the three tries that it took her to be admitted into the astronaut program.

“Seeing this magnificent planet Earth and seeing the beauty of our planet and really understanding how special it is, how fragile it is,” she says, serves as a reminder of “how important it is to protect it … to take good care of our home planet … to be a good steward in our universe.”

What’s next for Jessica now that she’s fulfilled her biggest childhood dream of walking in space? “Another dream would be to go to the moon,” she said. “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 … So maybe I’ll make that my new dream.”

On March 2nd, in honor of Women’s History Month, astronauts aboard the International Space Station answered questions from students via a live In-Flight Education Downlink. NASA astronaut Jessica Meir—who recently made history as one half of the first all-woman spacewalk—was on hand for a Q&A about living and working in space at The Museum of Flight in Seattle. You can watch the event, hosted by NASA’s STEM on Station team in partnership with Microsoft Education, here

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