UC San Diego Alum, NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir Launches Into Space for 1st Time

It's a dream that has been a lifetime in the making for this UC San Diego alumni; on Wednesday, now NASA astronaut Jessica Meir embarked on her first launch into space to start a six-month mission at the International Space Station.

When Meir was five years old, she was asked to draw what she wanted to be when she grew up. The drawing, she recalls, was a photo of an astronaut on the moon with an American Flag behind her.

Nine minutes after the launch from Kazakhstan on Wednesday, it was the closest Meir has come yet to bringing that image to life -- she had entered space for the first time.

Meir and two others, Russia's Oleg Skripochka and the United Arab Emirates' Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, will spend six hours in the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft before arriving at the ISS.

As the rocket launched, Meir's friends, family and colleagues cheered her on from UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she studied diving physiology. 

A beaming PhD advisor, Paul Ponganis, described how proud he was to see his student fulfill her dream. 

"From the very start when she interviewed with me, we knew that she possibly would become an astronaut; that was one of the primary goals of her life," Ponganis said. 

"For me, all my students are sort of academic children and she is essentially my academic daughter. And, to me, I'm proud as ever that she is able to do this," he added. 

By 7:06 a.m., just minutes after launch, the rocket was traveling 13,500 miles per hour towards it's destination, the Zvezda service module, which will connect them via a hatch to the ISS where they will join six other astronauts.

The team will be conducting experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science inside a microgravity laboratory. There, Meir will use her biology lessons from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Before receiving her doctorate in marine biology at UCSD, Meir studied biology at Duke University and studied at the International Space University in France. She worked for three years at NASA's Johnson Space Center to research how humans' physiology changes in space. 

For the first time, Meir said, she will go from being the one doing the studying of others to the one being studied. 

To track Meir's journey, visit her NASA page here

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