Meir, a San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography alum, is among four women and four men chosen for the 2013 astronaut candidate class following an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA announced Monday. According to the agency, more than 6,000 people applied to be part of the class, the second largest number of applicants NASA has every received for the program.
With half the class female and half male, this year’s crop makes up the highest percentage of women ever chosen for the same class, according to NASA. The agency said Meir and the other newly chosen astronaut candidates will begin training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston in August.
“These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we’re doing big, bold things here — developing missions to go farther into space than ever before,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “They’re excited about the science we’re doing on the International Space Station and our plan to launch from U.S. soil to there on spacecraft built by American companies. And they’re ready to help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on Mars.”
Meir earned a doctorate at Scripps for research about the physiology of birds and marine animals, and how it might be applied to the fragile and taxing environment astronauts face while working and living in zero-gravity.
She was born in Caribou, Maine, and most recently has been serving as an assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Meir has also briefly served as an “aquanaut” on NASA’s underwater habitat in Florida, which is used to simulate the isolation and pressures of space.