Maine astronaut Jessica Meir has long dreamed of going to the moon. It may just take a little longer than anticipated.
NASA announced on Monday the four astronauts who will comprise the Artemis II mission to the moon, including commander Reid Wiseman, pilot Victor Glover and mission specialist Christina Koch from the U.S. and Canadian mission specialist Jeremy Hansen. Meir, who was named to the Artemis II shortlist in 2020, didn’t make the cut.
“The Artemis II crew represents thousands of people working tirelessly to bring us to the stars. This is their crew, this is our crew, this is humanity’s crew,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Monday.
The Artemis II team will test the capabilities for deep space flight. During the 10-day mission, the team will fly to and orbit the moon aboard the Orion spacecraft. NASA said Artemis II will pave the way for the first human being to set foot on the moon since 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission.
NASA has been planning for a future human mission since July 2019, when the Trump administration set a goal to return to the moon by 2024. Last summer, NASA announced it had selected 13 potential landing sites for the Artemis III mission.
Though Meir wasn’t selected for the Artemis II mission, she has already cemented her place in Maine history on Sept. 28, 2019, when she became the first Maine woman to go into space. During her six-month mission aboard the International Space Station, Meir and her fellow astronaut Christina Koch made history for performing the first all-female spacewalk, a feat they repeated a second and third time.
Meir, the valedictorian of Caribou High School’s Class of 1995, was among three women and four men selected from 6,100 applicants in 2013 for NASA’s 21st class of astronauts and to begin training for future space flights. That came only four years after Meir first applied but was rejected for NASA’s 20th class of astronauts. NASA announced in April 2019 that Meir would make her first space flight in September.
In many ways, Meir’s selection to join the space program began very early in her life. Meir participated in the space camp at Purdue University in Indiana before starting her freshman year at Caribou High School, and she also took part in a six-week summer camp at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida between her sophomore and junior years at Brown University in Rhode Island.
Meir has a degree in biology from Brown University, a master’s in space studies from the International Space University in Illkirch, France, and a Ph.D. in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, according to NASA.
Meir is one of Caribou High School’s most distinguished graduates, along with Gregory H. Johnson, a four star Navy admiral; Olof Pierson, who is credited with inventing frozen french fries; and Susan Collins, a U.S. senator. In 2016, Meir was inducted into the high school’s Alumni Hall of Fame.
Meir returned from her stay aboard the International Space Station in April 2020 to a planet turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She was named as one of 2020’s most influential people by Time magazine and was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame last year.
Meir is among at least three Maine natives to become astronauts, the others being Christopher Cassidy, a York High School graduate who has completed six spacewalks and served as the nation’s chief astronaut from 2013 to 2017, and Charles O. Hobaugh, a Bar Harbor native who has made three spaceflights. Bridget Ziegelaar, a graduate of Old Town High School, is an operations manager for International Space Station Research Integration at NASA.
Meir announced the birth of her first child last month on International Women’s Day.