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Jessica Meir, the UC San Diego graduate who was part of the first all-woman team of spacewalkers as a NASA astronaut, has been chosen to give the school’s main commencement address on June 11.

Meir, who might travel to the moon this decade during NASA’s Project Artemis, will preside over what’s likely to be the largest graduation in the school’s nearly 62-year history. Enrollment neared 43,000 last fall and upwards of 11,000 students could get degrees, primarily over a two-day period.

Meir will become the latest in a long line of prominent figures to give commencement at UCSD. Previous speakers include the Dalai Lama, who gave the address in 2017, and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who performed the honors in 2019.

Albright, the first woman to hold that position, died earlier this month at the age of 84.

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Meir is a Maine native who developed a fascination with space as a child. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Brown University in 1999 and a Master’s in space studies from the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, in 2000. She earned a doctorate in marine biology at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2009.

Four years later Meir, who has experienced diving beneath the ice in the Antarctic, was chosen for astronaut training by NASA. She made her first trip into space in September 2019 when she traveled to the International Space Station, where she spent more than 200 days as part of the outpost’s science team.

In October 2019 she and fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch performed the first all-woman spacewalk while doing upgrades on the space station, enjoying a view few humans have experienced.

“You realize how insignificant we really are as a species, as a planet, in the scope of the solar system and the universe,” Meir told the Union-Tribune upon returning to Earth.

“I think that perspective is really valuable. I wish every human could experience it. Because when you look down at the Earth and see no boundaries and no borders you realize that we are all truly in this together.”

Her spacewalk was historic. But Meir, who is now 44, was not the first person with ties to UCSD to travel high above Earth’s atmosphere.

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, served on the UCSD faculty for many years prior to her death in 2012.

Megan McArthur, who earned a doctorate at Scripps Oceanography, was an engineer on the final flight of the space shuttle program. She served about six months on the space station during a mission that ended last fall.

Kate Rubins, who earned a bachelors degree at UCSD, served on the space station during two missions, the latest of which ended in 2020.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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