The first Jewish woman to perform a spacewalk has said she wants to be the first woman to walk on the surface of the Moon.
Jessica Meir, a Swedish-US national with an Israeli father, emerged from the International Space Station (ISS) to take part in the first ever all-woman spacewalk on Friday with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch.
Back on board the ISS on Monday, she said: “It was an incredible experience. It’s difficult to put into words the mixture of emotions and feelings you have when you’re going out of the door for the first time.”
Meir is a trained anaesthetist who has studied the physiological effects of extreme conditions in animals, and said her body developed “muscle memory” after six years’ training, much of which was done underwater in a neutral buoyancy lab.
“I will never forget that moment coming out of the hatch, looking down and seeing just my boots and the Earth below. It’s such a spectacular and beautiful sight, it was really quite overwhelming.”
The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 but Koch and Meir said the gender split in their astronaut class had been 50:50.
Meir was accepted into the class in 2013, and said she dreamt of walking in space back in her class at school. “In my high school year book, under ‘future plans’ I wrote ‘to go for a spacewalk,’ so I’ve finally checked that box,” she said.
Meir and Koch are now three weeks into the six month mission on the ISS, during which time they will capture visiting vehicles, undertake scientific experiments and perform other spacewalks, but Meir said her dreams didn’t end there.
“Another dream would be to go to the Moon. That’s always the image I had. From the very first drawing I did in the first grade, I was standing on the surface of the Moon, so maybe I’ll make that my new dream.”
Both Meir and Koch are listed in a group of 12 women in the Astronaut Corps who will become the first woman to walk on the surface of the Moon in 2024, which NASA hopes will be “transformational for young women around the world”.
Meir added that daydreaming from the windows of ISS, looking at the Earth 250 miles below, was “one of our favourite pastimes up here, it’s an unbelievable sight”.