Jewish-American astronaut Jessica Meir addresses TAU

“Israel is a very important part of me,” Meir said, mentioning the personal items she brought to the International Space Station, such as an Israeli flag and Hanukkah socks.

Jessica Meir prepares to be submerged in NASA's 6.2 million gallon Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for spacewalk training. (photo credit: NASA/JOSH VALCARCEL)
Jessica Meir prepares to be submerged in NASA's 6.2 million gallon Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for spacewalk training.
(photo credit: NASA/JOSH VALCARCEL)

On Thursday, NASA astronaut Dr. Jessica Meir discussed her missions to space, life under extreme environmental conditions, and the relationship between her research and combating climate change at Tel Aviv University's 2021 Board of Governors Meeting. 

Meir, the fourth Jewish woman and 15th Jewish person to travel to space, addressed TAU by live broadcast at the Yehiel Ben-Zvi Academic Symposium, entitled “Between Climate Change, Space Research and Life under Extreme Conditions,” held on the university's campus. 

Also a marine biologist and physiologist, Meir was born to a Swedish mother and an Israeli father, and was raised in Tel Aviv.

During her virtual remarks to the symposium, Meir spoke of her connection to Israel, displaying several images of the Jewish state captured from outer space.

“Israel is a very important part of me,” she said, mentioning the personal items she brought to the International Space Station, including an Israeli flag, Hanukkah socks bearing Stars of David, and menorahs – along with a commemorative coin honoring late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. Meir has celebrated her Jewish identity and ties to Israel on her widely followed social media accounts.

Hanukkah greetings from astronaut Jessica Meir's Twitter account.TWITTER SCREENSHOTHanukkah greetings from astronaut Jessica Meir's Twitter account.TWITTER SCREENSHOT

Meir, a self-described "avid environmentalist," also addressed climate change, a timely topic as TAU recently launched the Center for Climate Change Action.

“We take a lot of photographs from the space station which can be used by scientists on the ground to see things like our changing planet,” she said from her current station in Houston, Texas. “By looking at things like the retreat of glaciers from the space station, at the same vantage point from which we’ve looked at [them] for decades, scientists can make measurements and understand what’s going on with the ever-pressing battle with climate change.”

The 44-year-old concluded by dedicating the talk to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, notably Ilan Ramon. "The first Israeli in space was part of this mission," she said of the tragic 2003 accident in which all seven crew members perished.