Astronauts Jessica Meir, left, and Christina Koch, right. Image credit: NASA
Image credit: AFP/Getty Images
Christina Koch is an American engineer and Class of ’13 NASA astronaut. She studied at North Carolina State University, receiving Bachelor of Sciences degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering. Koch participated in advanced studies while working for the Goddard Space Flight Center, contributing to the development of scientific instruments for several NASA missions that studied astrophysics and cosmology.
Before becoming an astronaut, she served with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as station chief for American Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean southeast of Samoa. In the early 2000’s, she worked as a Research Associate in the United States Antarctic Program, spending three-and-a-half years exploring Arctic and Antarctic regions. While in Antarctica, Koch was a part of teams that addressed firefighting and ocean/glacier search and rescue.
Fun Fact: Koch is expected to hit history books for another space-related accomplishment very soon, which is the longest single spaceflight by a woman – an insane 328 days! If all goes well, she will break the female record set by Peggy Whitson back in 2016-2017.
Image Credit: NASA
Jessica Meir is a Swedish-American-Israeli physiologist and NASA astronaut, also from Class of ‘13. Before becoming a space explorer, she was the Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, following postdoctoral research in comparative physiology at the University of British Columbia. In the early 2000’s, Meir worked for Lockheed Martin Space Operations as an Experiment Support Scientist for the Human Research Facility at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC).
At JSC, Meir coordinated and supported human space life science experiments that were performed by astronauts on space shuttle and ISS missions. These experiments included physiological studies, such as bone loss, atrophy, lung function, etc., to determine if any bodily processes were altered in the spaceflight environment. She also took part in research flights on NASA’s reduced gravity aircraft, and served as an aquanaut crew member in the Aquarius underwater habitat for the fourth NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission.
In 2009, Meir earned a PhD in Marine Biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Like her fellow astronaut Koch, Meir spent some time in Antarctica studying the diving physiology and behaviors of Emperor penguins, and also the physiology of Bar-headed geese. Fun Fact: These birds can migrate over the Himalayas, which have an elevation of approximately 29,000 feet/8,840 meters.
Image Credit: NASA
Clearly, both of these women are pretty extraordinary and have contributed to a diverse array of global studies, long before becoming super awesome astronauts. It’s exciting to live in a time when women are kicking ass and taking names in the scientific realm, especially with regard to historical space travel. Best of luck, Christina and Jessica – we’re cheering you on from Earth!