Brown alum lifts off to International Space Station

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Just before 10 a.m. Wednesday, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir became the first Brown University alumna in space as she heads into orbit as part of a special mission to the International Space Station.

Meir, who received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown in 1999, lifted off from Kazakhstan onboard a Soyuz rocket.

According to NASA, Meir will be joined on the mission by Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and United Arab Emirates’ Hazzaa Ali Almansoori.

The rocket is expected to arrive at the ISS Wednesday afternoon. NASA-TV is scheduled to broadcast the hatch opening around 5:45 p.m. EST.

Meir was tapped by NASA in 2013, according to the agency’s website, and in addition to her degree from Brown, she holds a Master of Science in Space Studies from the International Space University and Doctorate in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

This is her first spaceflight as she takes part in Expeditions 61 and 62 and she’s expected to return to Earth in spring 2020. Brown says Meir and her crew will work on various scientific experiments “aboard humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory.”

During Wednesday’s launch broadcast, NASA held a Q&A featuring some questions from the public via social media. Here are some of the highlights:

What do astronauts do for entertainment while in space?

“The astronauts have access to internet while they are up there. We have TV and movies made available for them, so plenty of ways to stay entertained while they are spending a very long duration in space.”

How long does it take to train to go to space?

“It depends on the mission. For most of these astronauts that are going up to do about six months to a year in space, they will spend about two years training just for that mission. So to become an astronaut, you will go through a few years of basic astronaut 101 training, and then once you do get assigned, it takes about two years.”

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