19 years after ISU, 19 days in Space – the story of Jessica Meir


On clear nights, ISU alumna and NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir is being spotted by the International Space University’s Masters students from Central Campus in Strasbourg: with the help of their smartphone app, they wave at her as the ISS passes overhead.

Jessica obtained her Master of Space Studies (MSS) 19 years ago and we are publishing this story on Monday 14 October 2019 as she counts 19 days in Space. Less than three weeks into her six-month mission, she has already conducted a series of scientific experiments and spacewalks.

Her launch from Kazakhstan was watched live by the class of MSS 2020: the first ISU program with a majority female population! (~60%): another historical milestone that we can all celebrate, echoing ISU’s vision of diversity and embracing the core values of “international, interdisciplinary, and intercultural” learning and experiences.

These are the values that Jessica carries with her to the ISS as she works with colleagues from Europe, Russia, the UAE, the USA etc. ISU professor John Farrow, now retired and well known for his direct style, shared some of his memories of Jessica on the occasion of her launch:

“Jessica never seemed to be particularly hard-working then in 2001- but obviously she did enough and was sufficiently bright to gain a cum-laude and clearly her 'special interests' (humans in space, biology, etc) were very different to mine [note: Prof. Farrow’s specialty is Satellite Applications].”

“She was very casually dressed in those days (OK, students don't normally come to ISU in space suits).  So, two years after graduation when this immaculately dressed, attractively svelte young lady sidled up to me at IAC'02 in Houston and said 'well, hello there John' I had to do a double take and it took me some 30 seconds to recognize the Jessica that we'd known through MSS'02.”

While this year’s Master’s students learn about spacesuits (see photo), are busy with exams, team assignments and internship search, companies founded by ISU alumni are starting to populate the space business incubator on the upper floor on Campus, courses are being delivered on virtually all continents, and it becomes hard to track how many ISU alumni are today Head of a Space Agency.

One of these is Chiara Manfletti from MSS 2003 and recently appointed President of the Portuguese Space Agency. Chiara was speaking to this year’s class last month and explained that one of the priorities she is setting for her Agency is “Space for the oceans”, a topic of growing importance for our students and for humanity: the vision of the ISU Founders becoming true once more: “... a peaceful, prosperous and boundless future through the study, exploration and development of Space for the benefit of all humanity…"

You are invited to follow Jessica Meir through her posts @Astro_Jessica and find out how close she will be to ISU's Hydra-1 payload in the Columbus module… remember the Founder’s vision for an ISU Campus in Space?

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Picture 1: Jessica Meir during the ISU Space Studies Program in Haifa, Israel in 2016. Photo: ISU
Picture 2: Twenty women and a Sokol spacesuit. ISU #MSS20‬. Photo: Chris Welch.