Will This Astronaut Be The First Woman (And First Jew) To Walk On The Moon?
On October 18, the first all-female spacewalk in history will take place about 240 miles from Earth. One of the women walking is a member of the tribe – and may turn out to be the first woman (and first Jew) to walk on the moon.
NASA tweeted on Monday that astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir would take an approximately 6.5 hour jaunt outside the International Space Station to perform maintenance. Meir, a Maine native born to a Swedish mother and an Iraqi-Israeli Jewish father, holds Swedish and American citizenship. She was the first Swedish woman, fourth Jewish woman and 15th Jew overall to be involved in a space mission, the JTA reported in May.
Before she made her maiden voyage, launching from a base in Kazakhstan, Meir asked to take a painting of a phoenix made by the late Rona Ramon, widow of Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space. Ramon and an international crew of six others died upon atmospheric reentry in the Space Shuttle Columbia Shuttle disaster in 2003. Rona Ramon, who died earlier this year, had established an educational foundation in her late husband’s honor.
“The painting I am taking with me represents the heritage Rona worked to promote and the inspiration she provided as an educator through The Ramon Foundation,” Meir said in September.
Astronauts’ resumes are, in a word, impressive, and Meir’s is no exception. She has PhD in marine biology and is used to living in the most extreme conditions on earth – including Antarctica. Meir also lived underwater as an aquanaut as part of NASA’s Extreme Environment Missions Operations program. But while she’s committed her earthbound life to the study of birds and mammals, she has wanted to go to space since she was very young.
“In first grade we were asked to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. And I drew an astronaut standing on the moon next to a flag of the United States,” Meir told Business Insider.
The prospect of Meir touching the lunar surface is far from a moonshot. NASA is hoping for another moonwalk by 2024 as part of its Artemis program. Greek mythology fans may notice the program takes its name from Apollo’s twin sister, the goddess of the hunt, patron of women, and avatar of – naturally – the moon. In homage to that goddess’s spirit, 17 candidates are in contention to be the first woman to leave boot prints on the moon; Meir is one of them, as is her spacewalk partner, Koch.
In the meantime, Meir is active on Twitter, taking spacesuit selfies with Koch in advance of their mission to repair a battery channel.
Gearing up for Friday’s spacewalk to help the ground teams repair one of the battery channels with @Astro_Christina.
… first spacesuit selfie, check!✔️
— Jessica Meir (@Astro_Jessica) October 16, 2019
She’ll be taking some live photos when she exits the hatch Friday. While a long way away from her first grade lunar ambition, spacewalks fulfill another lifelong goal.
“[M]y dream has always been to go for a spacewalk,” Meir told the JTA in May. “There’s never a guarantee — things can always change with the mission when we get up there — but right now per the current plan I will be doing spacewalks as well.”
Dream achieved. This will be Meir’s second spacewalk, and she seems to enjoy the view.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at [email protected].