One girl’s space dream is coming true
A teacher once asked her class to picture themselves in the job they wanted to do when they grew up. Jessica Meir drew an astronaut standing on the Moon. She was 5. Today, she is on the International Space Station.
In a few days, she’ll make history by going outside the capsule. And she hopes one day to add another big historic chapter by becoming the first woman to walk on the Moon – showing girls (and boys) everywhere that dreams can come true if you really work on them.
It’s an amazing adventure for a little girl from a small town. But for Jessica, whose first half-year space mission began last month, her dreams of travelling into space are still grounded in a lifelong love of planet Earth.
She grew up in the snowy forests of the northern United States and inherited a passion – a really strong feeling – for nature from her mother, who grew up in Sweden.
At university, Jennifer studied biology – the science of plants and animals. But she wasn’t happy just reading books or sitting in a laboratory. She wanted to learn how animals can live in really tough places. So she went to watch them.
Can you think where?
She went diving under ice near the South Pole, where it’s really cold. And she climbed some of the highest mountains to study birds that fly up there, where there’s hardly any air.
In 2013, she was one of just eight people out of 6,000 chosen to be astronauts by NASA, the U.S. space agency. For the first time, NASA picked as many women as men.
Jessica trained in her spacesuit in a swimming pool – floating in water is like being in space, where there is very little gravity to hold you down. To make it harder, she had to learn to speak Russian.
Why? Because, two weeks ago, it was on a Russian rocket that Jessica blasted off into space with two cosmonauts – the Russian word for astronauts.
For the first time, she got to see our little blue planet from 400 km up in the sky. Jessica says that view helps us understand how beautiful and delicate our world is and how much we must protect it.
In space, she met up with close friends from her training class. It is with one of them, Christina Koch, that Jessica is about to make history. On Oct. 21, they will go outside, wearing the big suits that let them breathe in space. If all goes to plan, it will be the first ever women-only spacewalk.
It hasn’t happened before because in the past girls didn’t get the same chances as boys. But Jessica says that today “it’s just normal” that she and Christina will be out fixing the space station.
She still has another dream though. NASA wants people to visit the Moon again. Only 12 men have ever stepped on it. The last time was nearly half a century ago, five years before Jessica was born.
“I would absolutely love to be the first woman on the Moon,” she told space.com just before going into orbit last month. “That would be my ideal mission. It is time for us to go back to the Moon.”