NASA astronaut Jessica Meir is a candidate to be the first woman to land on the Moon as part of the Artemis lunar mission, which would see the first woman, Jew and Swedish citizen to step foot on the lunar surface, and the first person to do so since Eugene Cernan on December 12, 1972.
The child of a Swedish mother and Israeli Sephardi father, Meir is no stranger to space, having made history in 2019 for being part of the first all-female spacewalk. She has also always kept her Jewish and Israeli roots close to her heart, having brought an Israeli flag, Star of David socks and other related items with her into space.
Now she is hoping to make her mark on the lunar surface.
The announcement comes as part of NASA’s Artemis program, a series of missions named after the Greek goddess of the same name who was the twin sister of Apollo, the namesake of NASA’s lunar missions in the 1960s and 1970s.
Female astronauts have flown for years, with Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova being the first woman in space in 1963. However, they are still a minority among astronauts.
In fact, the only people to ever land on the Moon have been white men.
However, NASA made a pledge in April 2021 that it would put a woman and a person of color on the Moon, a promise in line with US President Joe Biden’s aims of advancing equality.
Doing so would be a dream come true, Meir said at a media event in the lead-up to the Israel Space Agency’s Israel Space Week, where she is a guest.
Meir is one of several candidates for that historic spot on the Artemis III mission, currently slated to be launched in 2025. It follows the Artemis I mission, an unmanned launch currently slated for March 2022, and the Artemis II mission, which will see a crew of astronauts orbit the Moon but not land.
Even if she isn’t chosen, Meir said she still hopes to play a role in this historic moment.
“I wanted to be an astronaut at five years old – I grew up watching the space shuttles launched,” she said, adding that returning to the Moon, especially being the first woman, would be the culmination of a childhood dream.