Jewish-Swedish astronaut prepares for blast off with Israeli flag
Jessica Meir, whose Iraqi-Israeli father fought in War of Independence, is only the fourth Jewish woman to take part in a Space Shuttle mission; among the 3 things astronauts allowed to take with them on a spacecraft, 41 year old picked an Israeli flag and menora-adorned socks
This will be the first space mission conducted by an astronaut with Israeli connection since the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster, in which Israel's first-ever astronaut Ilan Ramon perished with his crewmates.
The 41-year-old Jessica Meir was born in the United States to an Iraqi-Israeli father and Native American-Swedish mother and holds a dual American-Swedish citizenship. She was selected by NASA back in 2013.
Jessica claims that despite her mother being Christian, she and her brothers see themselves as Jews and occasionally visit a synagogue. "I'm not religious, but my background is culturally Jewish," she said.
Furthermore, among the three items - each austronaust is allowed to take with them on a mission - Jessica decided to take an Israeli flag (along with a pair of socks which have an image of a seven branch menorah on them).
Meir holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Brown University, a Master of Science in Space Studies from the International Space University, and a Doctor in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UCSD).
Meir’s father is an Iraqi-born Jew, who as a child immigrated to Israel with his family, and later fought in the 1948 war after being drafted to the Israel Defense Forces.
After completing his military service, he went to Sweden - in order to study medicine - where he married a Swedish woman. The two immigrated to the US shortly after, where they had five children, with Jessica being the youngest of the five.
The 41-year-old says she has been dreaming of becoming an astronaut since the age of five and over the years had tried in vain to enroll into NASA’s Space Shuttle program until finally being accepted in 2013.
Last month Meir was informed that she had been chosen to be part of a mission to International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which will be launched from the site at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 25, 2019. Astronauts from Russia and the United Arab Emirates will also be among the mission’s crew.
"I still have a hard time believing this is actually happening," Jessica said. "Once I’m sitting in the spacecraft, moments before the launch, I will finally believe my dream is coming true.”