Girls get the chance to speak with NASA astronaut and scientist Jessica Meir

(Video by Bella Hoffman/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – More than 50 young women recently had the opportunity to learn from and ask questions of NASA astronaut Jessica Meir during a virtual event held by the industry group Transportation YOU.

Meir was chosen to be an astronaut in 2013 and received physiological training, survival training, flight classes and a wide range of technical training at space centers around the world. She most recently served as flight engineer on the International Space Station for expeditions 61 and 62.

Meir first dreamed of becoming an astronaut at age 5, a story she shared with the 13- to 18-year-olds who took part in the virtual event Sept. 30.

“We were asked to draw a picture of what we want to be when we grow up, and I distinctly remember drawing an astronaut in a space suit standing on the surface of the moon next to the American flag,” said Meir, 44, who Time magazine named one of the most influential people of 2020.
She also talked about the sacrifices that came with reaching outer space.

Jessica Meir’s lifelong dream was to be an astronaut, but it took many sacrifices to make that happen, she says. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA)

“When I was asked if I wanted the chance to come to NASA and be an astronaut, you know of course I wasn’t going to say no to that childhood dream, but it was a little bittersweet because you realize you have to give up this other part of your life that you had worked so hard and really enjoy.”

Meir, who was studying the physiology of animals in extreme environments before NASA, encouraged the girls to take advantage of opportunities in the category of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

STEM opportunities can be explored through Transportation YOU, a hands-on, interactive mentoring program that offers girls an introduction to a wide variety of transportation careers traditionally dominated by men. It offers free monthly events to young women interested in the transportation industry.

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WTS, which was founded in 1977 as the Women’s Transportation Seminar, is the primary organization getting women involved in the industry. Transportation YOU focuses on ages 13 to 18.

Along with guest speakers, tours and mentorships, WTS sponsors the DC Summit, which gives high school students the opportunity to meet college representatives, senior administration officials and tour the White House, DC Metro and transportation hubs.

Michael Book, community outreach coordinator for Valley Metro, explained how to get involved.

“For Transportation YOU, you don’t have to be a member of WTS,” he said. “You can basically just join the calls, especially with them just being online, and if you’re an active student doing that, it would qualify the student for the Washington DC Summit.”

Women in Transportation, which is the WTS’ metropolitan Phoenix chapter, hosts monthly events and programs to encourage networking and professional development.

News Reporter, Phoenix

Bella Hoffman expects to graduate in December 2021 with a degree in broadcast journalism. Hoffman, who has interned for Ted Talk and Life Time Inc., is working in the Phoenix News Bureau.

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