CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou native Jessica Meir isn’t going to the moon — at least not yet — but that hasn’t stopped her story from inspiring students in her hometown.
On Monday, NASA announced that Meir will not be one of the four astronauts who will comprise the Artemis II mission to the moon in 2024. While the news is disappointing for those following Meir’s career, some Caribou High School students are determined to use her setback as a learning opportunity.
Lauren Lister and Isabella Cherrier are sophomores at the school, from which Meir graduated in 1995. Lister wants to become an elementary school teacher while Cherrier has interest in being a pediatric nurse or marine biologist.
“It’s amazing to see someone who went to the same school as me follow her passion and accomplish something that big,” Cherrier said. “If she can do something that amazing, others here can too.”
If Cherrier chooses marine biology, she would be in good company with Meir. After leaving Caribou, Meir earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown University and, later, a doctoral degree in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
Cherrier has been following Meir’s career since she became the first woman in Maine to go to space in 2019. Cherrier cheered on Meir as she, along with fellow astronaut Christina Koch, took part in the first all-female spacewalk and repeated that spacewalk a second and third time. Meir returned from the International Space Station in 2020.
Meir’s recent accomplishments have made her one of Caribou High School’s most famous alums, which include U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, retired four-star Navy Admiral Gregory H. Johnson, and Olof Pierson, the inventor of frozen french fries.
Meir was named to her high school’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 2016 and was inducted last year into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame.
Cherrier and Lister were in the audience when Meir visited with Caribou students virtually in 2019 aboard the International Space Station. Lister called Meir a “great role model,” especially for young women pursuing careers.
Meir’s setback won’t stop Lister from believing in Meir or in her own future goals.
“The first time she applied to NASA [to be an astronaut], she didn’t get in, but she reapplied and made it,” Lister said. “She didn’t give up and I know she won’t this time.”
No matter what direction Meir’s career goes in, her perseverance will continue to inspire students, said Caribou High School Guidance Counselor Rani Mehta.
Meir is a worthy role model for youth, Mehta said.
“Jessica has shown us that she has never given up on her dreams,” Mehta said. “She epitomizes resilience, perseverance and a positive attitude, which are all qualities that kids need more than ever.”
Meir was not available for comment due to prior commitments, according to NASA officials. Last month, Meir announced the birth of her first child, a daughter.