Ready to perform spacewalks, UC San Diego graduate Jessica Meir arrived at the International Space Station on Wednesday. Meir launched on her first journey into space  on Sept. 25. She will spend six months on this mission aboard the International Space Station. Being aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, in what she explains as a “surreal” experience, the 42 year-old NASA astronaut was supported by two of her expedition’s crewmates Oleg Skripochka (a Russian cosmonaut) and Hazza Ali Almansoori (the first United Arab Emirates astronaut). They landed safely after a smooth launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Meir has been dreaming about going into the space since she was five years old.

“I’ve heard it (said) that you have this amazing window — you see all of the beauty on the planet, but you can’t actually experience or touch any of it.”

On Expedition 61/62, Meir will work on various scientific projects that might include investigations and performing maintenance on the ship alongside eight other astronauts on the station. Among them NASA astronauts Christina Koch is already on the station, NASA reported.

“I’m incredibly excited. It’s something that I’ve been dreaming and thinking about for my entire life almost since I was five years old, so, still a little bit surreal right now to imagine that it’s finally coming true,” Meir told Space.com before the launch.

Meir is a doctorate from UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. On this mission, she is also expected to perform one or more spacewalks.

“I think what I’m looking forward to the most is, as a scientist, understanding more about all of these different effects of microgravity in the spaceflight environment, and participating as both an operator and a subject for a wide variety of investigations,” she added. “I’m also really looking forward to the potential to do a spacewalk since that’s really what I’ve always envisioned myself doing really my whole life.”

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Discussing her upcoming research, Meir added, “My background is looking at the physiology of animals in extreme environments. Now, I will be the animal in the extreme environment. One of the big areas of research on the space station is understanding how spaceflight in a microgravity environment affects the human body. There are some real interesting studies right now that I will be part of.”

“One of them is looking at the health of our blood vessels. We’ve actually seen on some recent experiments that blood vessel walls — the walls of our arteries — actually get thicker and thicker in space. In a six-month mission it is equivalent to 20 years of aging.”

“One of them is looking at the health of our blood vessels. We’ve actually seen on some recent experiments that blood vessel walls — the walls of our arteries — actually get thicker and thicker in space. In a six-month mission it is equivalent to 20 years of aging. It’s a really important process to understand in terms of the health of astronauts,” she concluded.

Koch, too, took to Twitter to share her excitement about the launch paired with a stunning photo of the journey as seen from space. “What it looks like from @SpaceStation when your best friend achieves her lifelong dream to go to space. Caught the second stage in progress! We can’t wait to welcome you onboard, crew of Soyuz 61!” she wrote.

Feature Image Credit: The San Diego Union-Tribune

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