She’s taking one small step for Maine.
Astronaut Jessica Meir, a native of Caribou, Maine, is the first woman from her state to reach space after her crew successfully docked at the International Space Station Wednesday afternoon, according to NASA.
A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying Meir and two other astronauts lifted off as scheduled at 9:57 a.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to NASA. After a six-hour flight, their spacecraft reached the station at 3:42 p.m.
“NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched safely for their mission aboard the International Space Station on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft,” NASA said in a statement.
The space agency broadcasted the takeoff live.
At about 5:45 p.m, NASA said, “hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open and the new residents will be greeted by station commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos (the Russian space agency), NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.”
The crew will orbit Earth four times, NASA said.
Here’s what US Senator Susan Collins, a longtime Maine Republican tweeted Wednesday around 7:30 a.m.:
“Today, @Astro_Jessica will not only fulfill her lifelong dream of going to space, but will make history as the first woman from Maine to reach orbit,” Collins tweeted. “Jessica is from my hometown of Caribou, and the city, The County, and the entire state are so proud of her accomplishment.”
The launch means it’s about to get a little more crowded in space, at least temporarily.
“Their arrival will increase the orbiting laboratory’s population to nine people until Oct. 3, when Hague and Ovchinin, who are completing a mission of more than 200 days, will return to Earth with Almansoori on the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft,” the statement said. “Meir and Skripochka will spend more than six months on the station.”
The crew will be busy up there, continuing work on “hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory,” NASA said.
Meir on Saturday tweeted that she was ready to get started.
“Quite an unreal feeling to gaze up at the actual @roscosmos #Soyuz engines that will ferry us to space,” she wrote over the weekend. “ ... T-4 days to launch!”
Meir will be talking with Caribou students at the Caribou Performing Arts Center Oct. 29 live from the International Space Station, said Travis Barnes, the school principal, in a phone interview Wednesday.
“She’s proof that big things can come from small-town Maine. There’s still a variety of faculty that had Jessica in school, and it’s a very proud moment for them,” Barnes said. “She’s achieved great things, done a lot of great work, but she’s never, ever forgotten where she started or where she came from.”
Christina Kane-Gibson, who went to high school with Meir, said Caribou is “abuzz” with excitement over the launch.
“Her yearbook quote said to take a spacewalk was her future goal, so for us, it’s showing people you can reach your goal. Look how hard she’s worked and how far she’s come. She’s showing these kids they can do it, too,” said Kane-Gibson, the city’s events and marketing director.
Meir was in Kazakhstan ahead of the launch. She was with her family and her childhood best friend, Erin Umphrey, Kane-Gibson said.
“She was a very intelligent, fun-loving, good friend to my daughter, and a great student. She wanted to be an astronaut since she was in first grade or preschool. She used to draw pictures of spacecraft,” said Mary Umphrey, Erin’s mother.