HWHAP Ep110 From the Seas to the Stars

Gary Jordan (Host): Houston, we have a podcast. Welcome to the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center, Episode 110, “From the Seas to the Stars.” I’m Gary Jordan. I’ll be your host today. If you’re new to the show, we bring in NASA experts to talk about all the different parts of our space agency. Sometimes we get lucky enough to bring in astronauts to talk about their story. So, today we’re talking with Jessica Meir. She’s a US astronaut. And she’s about to launch to the International Space Station this September 2019 for her very first space flight. We talked about her education, studying biology, space. And she got a PhD in marine biology. We talked about her research studying marine mammals and animals in extreme environments, even in Antarctica. We talked about her training as a NASA astronaut and what she’s doing to prepare for her first space mission, including putting herself in an extreme environment and living underwater for a few days. So, with no further delay, let’s go lightspeed and jump right ahead to our talk with Jessica Meir. Enjoy. [ Music ] Host: Jessica, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I know you’re very busy, especially coming so close to your launch here. So, appreciate your time. Jessica Meir: Yeah. You’re welcome. It’s great to be here. Host: You’re leaving soon, actually, to go to, is it Moscow? Jessica Meir: Yes. Well, this is actually my last day of training here in Houston. And I leave Sunday. I go via Cologne. So, I’ll be in Cologne for a week training. And then, I’ll be in Russia. Host: Yeah, wow. That’s just a few short days. And then, you’re there until you go to Baikonur for launch. Jessica Meir: That’s right. Host: That’s going to be very exciting. I wanted to take a step back, though, and go through just your story, starting from where you were born and raised in Caribou, Maine. I’m actually. I wasn’t familiar with it. So, I had to go look it up. It’s pretty far north. What was it like living there? Caribou, Maine. Jessica Meir: Yeah, Caribou is actually the northeastern most city in the US. Host: Yeah. Jessica Meir: Not the northern most, nor the eastern most. But the northeastern most. It’s a really small town. And, you know, for me, just like anyone, you don’t really know what to compare it to when you just grow up there. Host: Sure. Jessica Meir: So, I was lucky enough to travel quite a bit with my parents. Both my parents are from other countries, so. But it was a wonderful place to grow up. You know, it was a very small town. So, we were always outside running around. Safety wasn’t an issue or anything like that. And I had a great time growing up there. I think it was a great place for my parents to raise their kids. And for us to grow up. Host: Yeah. Looking at some of your interests as part of your biography, it’s mostly outdoorsy stuff. I guess that’s where your main interests lie, kind of being outside. Jessica Meir: Yeah, I think that’s definitely true. I love nature. And I think. My mom always says, nothing beats nature. And she’s right. And I always feel, I think the happiest I feel and the most relaxed I feel are when I’m on a camping trip and I’ve been away from everything else for a few days. And I can really relax and just enjoy what’s around. Host: There’s nothing like unplugging when it comes to camping. There’s just something about it. Jessica Meir: Absolutely. Host: Yeah. Have you ever been to Big Bend, Texas? Jessica Meir: I have not. It is on my list. And I’m dying to go. So, hopefully I get a chance when I finally get some well-earned vacation time after space flight, I think that’s on my list. Host: Yeah, definitely one of my favorite places because you lose cell coverage. So, you completely unplug. It’s actually something you don’t appreciate until you actually lose cell coverage. You also find out that you’re quite addicted to your phone afterwards. Jessica Meir: Right. It’s rare to find those places these days. [Laughter]. Host: So, when did your interest in space flight start coming up in your life? Jessica Meir: I started saying I wanted to be an astronaut when I was five, my mom tells me. And I don’t really remember that. But that’s what she says. And then, 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 the flag in a space suit. That kind of image. And I really said it my whole life ever since then. So, it was something that my family, you know, my parents, my siblings, my close friends from the time I was a little kid all the way through college and beyond that. Everybody associated that with me. Called me space girl. They knew it was my dream. Host: That’s right. I think one of the things you participated in was Space Camp, actually, right? Jessica Meir: Yeah, not NASA’s real Space Camp. But I went to Purdue University Space Camp when, I think it was the summer before my freshman year. My sister was a graduate student out there. And she found out about it. So, I went for a few weeks there that summer. Host: Alright. So, space was definitely engrained early in your life. How about biology? When did that start becoming a possibility? Jessica Meir: Yeah, biology was also my favorite subject growing up. So, I think I really always pursued the two in parallel from the time I was a kid as well. Host: Yeah. Did you have an idea about what you wanted to pursue, I guess late in your, late in high school, about what you wanted to pursue for your career, in terms of college? Jessica Meir: I knew. Well, I believe. As soon as I went to college, I thought I wanted to major in biology. And that was cemented pretty quickly. Right after that first basic biology course, I knew that that was the right direction. I didn’t know, you know, exactly what I wanted to pursue later. I thought in later years about maybe going to medical school or maybe doing a PhD. But I hadn’t quite narrowed it down yet. So, I actually ended up working for a while. And working here at NASA and doing a master’s degree at the International Space University before I even got to that graduate work phase. Host: That’s right. Yeah, so, even, even though you were pursuing biology, it seems like space was on your mind. I know recently. We’re recording this in late July now. But we just recently did a broadcast for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. And you were, you were a part of that actually with us. And told this fantastic story right next to the person who influenced you about how they kind of, I guess, pivoted your career towards what you’re doing now. And it was with Charlie Duke. Jessica Meir: Yeah, that’s right. Charlie Duke was actually the first astronaut I ever met. And as I mentioned, Caribou, Maine is a pretty remote place. We didn’t have other astronauts coming through. We didn’t know anybody that worked at NASA. But he was speaking at the neighboring town. And I wanted to be sure not to miss it. So, I went to watch him speak. And I went to speak to him afterward. And he gave me his card. And I wrote him a letter. And he wrote back to me. And by the time he wrote back to me, I was a freshman in college at Brown. And I still have that letter. So, it was a really extraordinary experience last week to be with Gene Kranz and Charlie Duke in the newly renovated Apollo Mission Control room, the flight director, of course, and the CAPCOM for the Apollo 11 flight. It just was spectacular to be in there with them, especially with that connection of, you know, remembering that Charlie Duke was the first astronaut I met. And I haven’t seen him since. And now, being only two months away from my own space flight. So, it really brought that full circle. And I think he was pretty excited as well when I showed him that I had actually kept that letter. Host: Yeah, I can’t imagine. I mean, just, just you appreciate when the astronauts actually take the time to do that because look at you now. I mean, you got to present the letter to him. And saying, hey, here’s the letter you wrote me a while ago. And I’m about to go to space a couple months. So, thank you very much [laughter]. Jessica Meir: Yeah, it was a really special moment, I think, for me. Host: For sure. And it was cool to witness for sure. Now, because, I guess, he responded to you when you were at Brown, like you said, you were still going for biology. But I think this idea of space was probably still in your mind even during your career, or during your time going for your bachelor’s in biology. Jessica Meir: Yeah. I was still trying to involve myself in any space related activity that I could. So, I got my pilot’s license. That, you know, wasn’t necessarily connected to space. That was something that I’d always wanted to do was fly airplanes. So, I started taking flying lessons while I was at Brown. I was also involved in another summer program. The Space Life Sciences Training Program that Kennedy Space Center had. I believe they still have it. Where they actually, it’s fully paid, fully funded and paid for. And they bring a group of students down for all training in the Space Life Sciences. So, we were actually living there for, I think, six weeks. We were working in the labs. We had our own research projects. We were learning. You know, we had classroom instruction from all kinds of different people that worked at Kennedy Space Center. Astronauts came through and talked to us. It was a really cool experience. Host: Yeah. Jessica Meir: I also was part of the Brown Space Club. And we designed an experiment where we, which we ended up getting to perform on the Vomit Comet. It was the KC135 back then. And that was when NASA still had the reduced gravity student flight opportunities. So, we designed an experiment and we were actually suturing pigs feet. So, we were comparing using conventional suturing, which with using a tissue adhesive, which was relatively new back then, called Dermabond. But it’s just basically like superglue. That’s used all the time now. And we actually have some up on the Space Station in order to, you know, just to quickly close a small wound. Instead of having to stitch it up. So, we did that study on the Vomit Comet. And that was the first time that I came to the Johnson Space Center. Host: Okay. So, that’s kind of where you got a feel for what, I guess, the Johnson Space Center was like. And it comes later in your career too. I think shortly after Brown. Correct me if I’m wrong. Is where the International Space University comes in, if I’m not right — Jessica Meir: Yeah, that’s right. So, there was another connection to the Johnson Space Center as well because I had done that reduced gravity flight. They had a little job fair for people. And so, I thought, oh, I’m not, I’m not doing engineering. There’s not going to be anything relevant for me here. But I went anyway. And I, you know, gave my resume around to a few people. And I didn’t think anything would ever come of that. And then, I was at the International Space University, as you mentioned, in the master’s program there. So, master’s of space studies. And that was another really exceptional opportunity because it was interdisciplinary, international, intercultural. There were students from over 20 different countries, I think it was. And we were learning everything from typical things that you might think of, like orbital mechanics or space engineering. But also, space policy and law and medicine. So, it was really multidisciplinary. And I think was a unique way and unique exposure, of way of looking at the space program. And then, I ended up getting a call when I was there from somebody from Lockheed Martin, who had my resume from the time I was there on that reduce gravity flight. And they ended up offering me a job to come to Johnson Space Center and work in the Life Sciences for the Human Research Facility. So, that was a job, in which we coordinated all of the life science experiments that were being performed back then on the space shuttle. And then, also on the Space Station. Host: Look at that. Look at how everything just lines up because you graduated International Space University in 2000. And then, joined Johnson Space Center in 2000. So, that’s kind of how that happened. And you were doing a bunch of different life sciences. One of the things I did want to point out particularly. And I don’t know if this is where marine biology comes in later. But is that the time you participated in a NEEMO mission? Jessica Meir: Yeah, I did. At the time NEEMO was pretty new. And NEEMO is, of course, the NASA Extreme Environment Missions Operation. So, an analog that we use to help train astronauts. You know, there are a lot of similarities to living underwater in an underwater habitat, as there are to living in space. You need a life support system to go outside. You’re living in a small, confined area with a group of other people. You’re conducting a mission timeline where you have experiments to do, various tasks throughout the day. So, at the time, this was, there had been three NEEMO missions before that. Never. There had been no people involved from the Life Sciences Directorate. So, the Life Sciences Directorate thought, well, you know, maybe this a good analog for some of our research as well. Let’s check it out. Let’s send a crew member down there and see. So, they had an application process. And I heard about it. And I thought, this seems so cool. I love to scuba dive. I actually didn’t have a ton of scuba diving experience at the time. I had been certified when I was in undergraduate at Brown. But, you know, scuba diving’s expensive. And when you’re a student, you can’t really pay for exotic diving vacations. So, I actually took vacation from my job here at Lockheed Martin. And went to Bonaire and went on a two-week diving trip, so that I could quickly accumulate enough dives to apply for this opportunity. And I applied and was fortunate to be selected. And it’s interesting to think about some of the personalities or some of the same people that ended up selecting me as an astronaut, so some of the selection board had carryover to that. And so, I did the NEEMO four mission. And that was with two other astronauts, Scott Kelly before he was quite as famous. It was well before the year long mission. Rex Walheim. And then, Paul Hill, who was back then a flight director. So, it was a really cool, diverse team. And then, we had two other habitat technicians down there in the habitat with us. Host: Interesting. So, what was, what was your perspective as the, in the Life Sciences side compared to some of the astronaut and, I guess, I don’t know if Paul Hill was a flight director back then. Was he? Jessica Meir: Yes, he was. Host: So, what was the, what was your perspective, I guess, compared to the other guys perspective? Jessica Meir: Well, I think it was a really unique and cool experience for all of us because everybody had a different point of view. You know, for the astronauts it was really kind of a training, teamwork, you know, looking at a mission commander type role. So, like we do now, we use these analog environments before missions to hone in on those skills of teamwork and expeditionary skills. For me, from the Life Science perspective, we were trying to evaluate if it would be an efficient analog and trying to understand more about the resources. And how we could compare that to some of the research that we were doing. So, we all had kind of different angles of looking at it. But it was a very, it was a unique opportunity to combine those elements, just like we do on space missions. You know, we’re working with the scientists on the ground. We’re working with a flight control team and mission control. And then, we have the astronauts up there. So, it really combined all of that down here on Earth. Host: Did it have some influence in your pursuing marine biology later? Jessica Meir: It did actually. You know, I had this interest in scuba diving and in the oceans. But after that mission and really living underwater and seeing all of that diversity underneath the surface, I thought this is something that I would really like to pursue further. And I wasn’t sure exactly how. But when I started thinking about going back to graduate school. And just kind of exploring on the internet and reading different things, I found this really interesting research by these researchers at various institutions. But particularly at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Jerry Kooyman and Paul Ponganis were these kind of legends of diving physiology. And I thought, wow, what a cool combination of this hardcore physiology and science out in nature, in diving, diving underwater, you know, all these things that I really was already passionate about and interested in. And that’s how I ended up contacting them and eventually going to graduate school there. Host: Wow. So, what was that like going to Scripps Institution of Oceanography? Jessica Meir:Well, I was a bit sad to leave NASA, of course. Host: Yeah. Jessica Meir: You know, I had been here for three years. And I had a lot of extraordinary opportunities, like you mentioned. More parabolic flights, like the one I had done before. But this time, you know, being a subject in the NEEMO mission. But it was really time for me to. I wanted to do my own science. You know, it was, it was — my job on the ground here was coordinating and making sure that other people’s science was undertaken correctly that we would be performing in space. But I kind of wanted to be on the other side. I wanted to be on the side of designing the experiments and testing these hypotheses. So, I ended up going to Scripps Institution of Oceanography and studying with Paul Ponganis. And studying diving physiology. Because I was just so astounded with this remarkable behaviors of animals in the animal kingdom. So, looking at deep divers. An emperor penguin can hold its breath for 30 minutes. So, one breath, 30 minutes. An elephant seal, two hours. So, these are breath holding, air breathing animals, just like us. But somehow, they have a much more developed capacity to thrive in these environments. And we really wanted to understand how, to study them further and understand how their physiology allows these types of behaviors. Host: I’m thinking about an experiment. And the experiment in my head is just holding your breath for a long time. How are you with holding your breath? Jessica Meir: I’m not great really. [Laughter]. No, I actually have some really close friends that are professional free divers. And, you know, we talk about that a lot. Like, how, how do they do this? You know, it does take a lot of control. For these animals, though, I mean they are actually adapted. They have evolved to thrive in these environments. And that’s why, you know, I always tease my friends, its much more interesting to study these animals that are actually adapted to this environment. Because as humans, we’re really not very good divers. [Laughter] Host: So, what were — tell me about some of your research. Because you were going really cool places to study these, these deep diving species in the animal kingdom. Jessica Meir: Yeah, we were studying diving physiology in general. But specifically, for my research, I was looking at oxygen depletion in some of the elite, some of the consummate divers. The emperor penguin, the best diver in the bird world. And the northern elephant seal. Elephant seals are the best diver in the seal world. So, looking at these extremes, I thought was a good place to start. Because you probably would elicit the most extreme physiological adaptation in an animal that had the most extreme behavior. Diving animals have a range of diving capabilities. So, they can’t all dive to these such extraordinary depths and for such durations as these two species can. So, we were conducting experiments with the animals in their environments. And we would actually anesthetize the animals, so that we could be a little bit more involved in how we undertook these studies. So, we would implant ECG. So, electrocardiogram recorders, just like if you go to the doctor and, you know, get all the electrodes and get your heart rate. So, we used ECG to get heart rate during dives. And then, we also even inserted oxygen electrodes into their blood vessels, so that we could measure the amount of oxygen in their blood, understand how low the levels go. And understand how they utilize oxygen while they’re diving. Host: I’m guessing, I don’t know if you have any findings from some of that research. But that — I don’t know what’s happening in their body, but it’s got to be something where their body is using oxygen very efficiently. Jessica Meir: Yeah. That’s exactly right. They have adaptations really all throughout the oxygen transport cascade. Getting oxygen in and using it effectively. Some of the things that our research showed were that they could tolerate extremely low levels of oxygen. So, you know, at a certain partial pressure of oxygen where we and other animals would be completely unconscious, our brains would not be able to function. They are still down there swimming, foraging, catching fish. And somehow, they have adapted to withstand and to tolerate these very low level of oxygen. And then, they use oxygen very, very effectively. So, they slow things down. And so, you can imagine they, first of all, have higher oxygen stores. That’s something we knew going in. We’ve known for a while that animals that are good divers have enhanced oxygen stores, even on a mass specific basis. So, they have higher blood volumes. They have more oxygen in their blood because they have higher hemoglobin concentrations, the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. They have higher myoglobin concentration, the protein that stores oxygen in the muscles. So, you imagine these three things. If you have more oxygen on board to begin with, you utilize it really effectively. And then, you can tolerate a really low level of oxygen. Then, that allows you to hold your breath for a much longer period. Host: See, the thing that was going through my head was just how, how does something evolve to a point where that is some– that is something that actually exists within the animal kingdom? That, that animals can actually make that a possibility just through evolving and that becoming a way that they support themselves. It’s crazy. That’s crazy to think about. Jessica Meir: Right. That is the beauty of evolution. Host: I can see why you got into this field. It’s absolutely fascinating. To do this, though, were you in Antarctica for some of these research expeditions? Jessica Meir: Yes. I went to the Antarctic five times. So, four times was for the emperor penguin research. Where we would setup a base called Penguin Ranch. [Laughter]. And it was located about 15 miles usually away from McMurdo Station in the Antarctic. So, McMurdo Station is the largest of the American bases. And we would setup this camp site out on the sea ice. And we would drill two holes in the sea ice, so that the penguins could dive through the holes. And this was a concept called the isolated dive hole paradigm. So, the isolated dive hole, it was a model that Jerry Kooyman at Scripps, who was one of my mentors, really pioneered and came up with on his own. It was a really cool way to do the science because if you want to put these instruments on the animal and let them dive freely really in the wild, you still need a way to get these instruments back. You know, we weren’t able, these, it was not telemetry. We weren’t telemetering the data back. We had to recover the recorder to get the data back. So, if you drill a hole in the ground. Sorry. If you drill a hole in the sea ice. And it’s in an area where there are no other holes or cracks and you put a fence around those holes, then the animals can dive freely with your instruments on them. And then, when they come back up, you can get the instruments back. So, a really clever way of conquering this type of research. And that’s how we did all of the work looking at heart rate responses and looking at the oxygen levels in the blood vessels of the emperor penguins while they dive. Host: Wow. It must’ve been quite an adventure to do all that, especially in Antarctica of all places. Jessica Meir: Yeah. That’s. And one of my favorite things about working down there is that it’s not just all science. You know, I didn’t really want to be the type of scientist that’s just inside in a lab or sitting at a desk. I love the outdoors so much. And love this active lifestyle that when you’re working in the Antarctic, you know, of course, it involves all of that mental and scientific method. You have to be a great scientist in order to conduct a good study down there. But you also have to be able to just survive in a harsh environment or if a snowstorm comes through, you’re not doing any science that day, you’re just shoveling snow. And making sure that the penguins are safe and taking care of everything. So, it’s not only mentally challenging, but it’s physically challenging as well. Host: Yeah. I think you’re one for extreme environments for sure. The Antarctic being one. It’s actually surprising how many people we talk to on this podcast that have been to Antarctica. It’s crazy. This is just an awesome place to work. But now, you’re going to space. So, transitioning from your time studying marine biology and doing this research in Antarctica, when did astronaut start becoming a possibility? Jessica Meir: Well, since it was something that I dreamed about my entire life, I started applying to become an astronaut as soon as it became realistic for me. You know, in order to become an astronaut, you really only need to have a bachelor’s degree in science in a STEM field. So, science, technology, engineering or math. And three years of experience. So, I applied, I think for the very first time was back in 2004. But I didn’t even have an advanced degree then. You know, that was really early on for me. So, I didn’t expect an interview. Then, the next selection after that was in 2008. So, for the 2009 class. That was when I was just wrapping up my graduate work. And I thought, okay, I’m finally in a much better position for this. But, you know, I still knew that it’s such a small chance of it happening no matter how qualified anybody is that I didn’t think that it would happen. But I applied. And I did get an interview. And I even made it to the final round that year. Came down to the final round, which is usually between 40 and 50 people. And everything went really well. And, you know, since I had worked here before, it was really nice to be back and to see the people that I had worked with. And it was a great experience. You know, you meet these extraordinary candidates and that’s when you really know, wow, I’m never going to get selected. [Laughter]. These people are amazing. But it’s great to even just meet those people because you form these connections and new friendships. And that year, I was unsuccessful. You know, they called me. I’ll never forget it. Suni Williams called me. And I was actually showing someone around Sea World in San Diego. And she gave me the call that nobody wants, you know, telling me, you know, it didn’t happen. But she said everything went well, you know, we encourage you to apply again. You didn’t do anything wrong. But we’re only selecting nine people this year. And you’re just not one of them. And so, of course, that’s really devastating when it’s your lifelong dream. But at the same time, you know, you knew that it was such a small chance that it really was just realistic. So, I went on. I finished. I defended my thesis shortly after that call. And then, went to pursue my post-doctoral research in an entirely different realm looking at high altitude animals instead of the diving animals. The opportunity came up during that research to apply again. And this was now for, in 2012 for the 2013 class. And I was actually a little bit surprised. I didn’t think that there would be another selection right then. I had actually convinced myself that I didn’t get it in 2009. That was probably my last chance. Just kind of thinking of the combination of my background and my age and everything and how often they did selections. I thought that that was probably my last opportunity. So, when this chance came around again, I thought, oh, wow, well do I want to go through that whole thing again? You know, it is an amazing opportunity and experience. But it’s also pretty exhausting and challenging as well psychologically and emotionally. And I thought, okay, wait a minute. What am I thinking? Of course, I’m going to apply. I can’t not apply. Of course, I have to. So, I applied again. And at the time, I was really happy with my new career in academia. And that was one of the things I felt so fortunate about. You know, I had this lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut. But I knew now that that wasn’t going to happen. And I felt so lucky that I had found this other field that really fulfilled me, that I loved and that I was passionate about and happy to go to work every day for. And so, I thought, well, you know what? This is just how it’s supposed to be. You know, I’m happy. I’m content. And I still submitted that application. And I got the interview. And I thought, well, you know, like any normal human behavior, this is going to just like it did last time. It’ll be nice to go back to Houston and see everybody. But it’ll be the same result. It’s just a numbers game. And it’s just not going to happen. And so, maybe it was having that attitude or just that’s always when things like this happen. That year I got a different call. A very different call. And that was asking me to come join the 2013 class. And it was really quite shocking. You know, I think everybody in our office remembers where they were when they got that call. And I thought, normal human behavior, it’s going to be the same call that I got before. I’m prepared for that. And it wasn’t. You know, Janet Kavandi called me and said, Jessica, looks like second times a charm. And that, you know, I knew that only meant one thing. And so, I was just so completely shocked, I was very eloquent and said, really? [Laughter]. So, she asked me to come work here. And, of course, it was not something that I could turn down being my childhood dream. And so, that was the start of it all. Host: Wow. Yeah, I’m sorry. We skipped a couple steps where you were going into academia and doing. I did want to talk about the bar headed geese. But I do want to make sure I’m conscious of your time. But I just, I know you had a great call story. So, I wanted to at least get to that. Going into actually becoming an astronaut, training as an astronaut candidate. I guess, I guess for the sake of time, we’ll, and with this. What are you looking forward to most? Because you’re going to be launching here in September. What are you looking forward to most during your expedition? Jessica Meir: Yeah. It’s difficult to believe after being here and training for almost six years, you know, we start thinking that this is just our normal job, all the stuff that we’re doing on the ground. And really, the way things work now, you’re really only in space for a very small fraction of your career. So, it’s really interesting to think about the fact that in two months all this training that I’ve been doing really will be the culmination of all of that. And I am so looking forward to participating in all the scientific investigations. You know, the International Space Station is a national lab. And we are doing experiments ranging from how space flight affects the physiology of all the physiological systems. And how it affects our bodies, spaceflight microgravity, radiation. All of the problems that can, we can encounter as humans that we really need to have answers to. You know, we have a lot of information now on how to prevent the muscle atrophy and the bone loss that we experience as soon as we get to microgravity. We still have some unanswered questions on, especially radiation. All of these things are incredibly important in order for us to explore further. Especially when we start thinking about these new Artemis Missions when we go back to the moon, when we are ready to go Mars. This will be probably something like a three-year mission. So, we really need to understand and have a good grasp and handle of all of these physiological effects. Right now, we still have some hot topics in what’s going on with our eyes. Are there are some changes even in the retina of our eyes. Things that we need to make sure that we understand the mechanism for, so that we can prevent and bring astronauts, make sure that they reach their destination safely. But also, make sure that we bring them back safely. We have experiments of combustion. There’s a combustion integration rack where we’re looking at combustion processes. And even flames burn differently in space. That’s the kind of thing that you can apply to having more fuel-efficient engines in cars here on Earth, or also for propulsion systems for space, for future space flights. We will have later this fall a bio fabrication facility, which is something so interesting. I was astounded to think, to find out that this was launching, you know, soon after I get there. Where we’ll actually be growing bio artificial organs. So, one of the problems with artificial organs on the Earth is that you have to have these support structures in order to effectively have the tissues and organs form. And the theory is that in microgravity you won’t need these support structures, which you then have to remove and can cause some deleterious effects to these artificial organs. So, in space, we might be able to grow and to harvest these organs in space and then bring them back down to deliver to people on Earth. And that’s a huge problem right now where there’s never enough organs for people that are in need of organ transplants. So, some of the different things that we’re doing on the Space Station are really remarkable areas of research. And, of course, those are just a few examples. There’s so many more. And as a scientist, I’m really excited to participate and to collect data for all the researchers on the ground. But aside from that personally, I’m also incredibly excited to fulfill that goal that I wrote about in my high school yearbook. And I listed my future plans as to go for a spacewalk. So, I’m hoping to deliver on that one this year. And that’s something that I’ve always thought about, you know, being out there on your own in a space suit looking back at the planet. And you’re, you’re really in this self-contained life support system, really your own little spaceship. And kind of perspective changing shift that will have on me as an individual. And I’ve heard this from a lot of astronauts in the past, you know, looking back at the planet, thinking back toward those early iconic images from the Apollo astronauts. You know, we first saw our planet when our eyes were from outside and the perspective change of understanding how special and unique our Earth is, our home planet. And how we need to do our best to protect it because we only have one. And it’s very fragile. And also, in terms of understanding the perspective of us as humans and really how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of the solar system and the universe. And so, that’s, that’s something that I think will really have a profound effect on me as an individual. Host: Wow. I think you’re the perfect person to go on a Space Station expedition. Your passion for science and looking forward to, you know, your whole life of really wanting to go to space and writing in your yearbook that you wanted to do a spacewalk. And it’s all going to be fulfilled soon, so. Jessica, I appreciate your time. And best of luck on your mission coming up here soon. Jessica Meir: Okay. Thank you very much. It was great talking to you today. [ Music ] Host: Hey, thanks for sticking around. I had a conversation with Jessica Meri today. And she’s going to be launching very soon to the International Space Station. Go to nasa.gov/ntv to watch her launch. She’s launching with Hazza Al Mansouri and Oleg Skripochka. If you want to listen to Christina Koch’s story, she’ll be on board the same time as Jessica Meir. Go to check out Episode 82. She’s been there since March and has an extended stay through 2020. And you can also check out Drew Morgan’s episode, Episode 98. He just arrived just a few months ago in July. Otherwise, you can check out the many other NASA podcasts we have on nasa.gov/podcasts. Follow Jessica’s journey on Twitter @Astro_Jessica. Or the journey of the International Space Station on the Space Station pages of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use the #AskNASA on your favorite platform to submit an idea for the show, ask a question about Jessica and make sure to mention it’s for Houston We Have a Podcast. We’ll bring it right on the show. This episode was recorded on July 24th, 2019. Thanks to Alex Perryman, Pat Ryan, Norah Moran, John Streeter, Brandi Dean, Megan Sumner and Dan Hout. Thanks again to Jessica Meir for coming on the show. Godspeed. We’ll be back next week.

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