NASA astronaut Jessica Meir launched on her first journey into space today (Sept. 25) to begin a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. Meir lifted off from Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft at 9:57 a.m. EDT (1357 GMT) alongside fellow astronauts Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, the first United Arab Emirates astronaut, and Oleg Skripochka, a Russian cosmonaut.
The spacecraft successfully docked with the space station at 3:42 EDT (1942 GMT) this afternoon. Meir is ready to begin her mission with Expedition 61/62, where she will work on a variety of scientific investigations and perform maintenance on the ship alongside eight other astronauts on the station.
"I'm incredibly excited. It's something that I've been dreaming and thinking about for my entire life almost since I was 5 years old, so, still a little bit surreal right now to imagine that it's finally coming true," Meir told Space.com in the video above.
"I think what I'm looking forward to the most is, as a scientist, understanding more about all of these different effects of microgravity in the spaceflight environment, and participating as both an operator and a subject for a wide variety of investigations," she added. "I'm also really looking forward to the potential to do a spacewalk since that's really what I've always envisioned myself doing really my whole life."
Astronauts on the space station do a wide variety of experiments. "Were doing all kinds of science up there, from those physiology experiments to combustion experiments to protein crystal growth. Really any type of science — you name it," Meir said. She noted that the many experiments she will work on will include an investigation of how spaceflight affects human arteries.
This research "will be pivotal for our longer duration missions in the future when we return to the moon and when we go to Mars," Meir said.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who is on board the space station, shared her excitement about the Soyuz crew launching to the station alongside a stunning photo of the journey as seen from space, on Twitter. "What it looks like from @Space_Station when your best friend achieves her lifelong dream to go to space. Caught the second stage in progress! We can't wait to welcome you onboard, crew of Soyuz 61!" she said.
What it looks like from @Space_Station when your best friend achieves her lifelong dream to go to space. Caught the second stage in progress! We can’t wait to welcome you onboard, crew of Soyuz 61! pic.twitter.com/Ws7tInY58PSeptember 25, 2019
When asked about NASA's Artemis program and how she would feel about being the first woman on the moon, Meir replied definitively: "I would absolutely love to be the first woman on the moon. That would be my ideal mission. It is time for us to go back to the moon, and I think that we will be able to do that in the near future and I would love to be the one on that mission," she said.
Meir has a varied and accomplished history. Before this mission, she had earned a bachelor's degree in biology, a master's in space studies and a doctorate in marine biology. She has worked in human physiology research at Lockheed Martin’s Human Research Facility and participated in reduced-gravity research flights with NASA. Meir has also studied bar-headed geese, and has worked as an aquanaut at the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) analog mission.
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