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Local woman looks to the stars

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - NASA may not be sending astronauts in shuttles anymore but its training program is alive and well. In this week's Earth 8 we're getting to know more about a local astronaut candidate from Scripps.

More than 50 years of space exploration continues despite the conclusion of NASA's manned shuttle missions. The agency continues to train future astronauts for missions to the international space station. One local researcher is lucky enough to call herself an astronaut candidate.

Since receiving her doctorate in marine biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Jessica Meir calls the Johnson Space Center in Houston home. Because of the rigorous demands during astronaut training, NASA said no interviews for now, but Jessica did have a lot to say about this opportunity earlier this summer.

"Of course what I'm looking forward to most, the big one would eventually be hopefully flying in space, since that has been my dream since I was about five years old," she said.

We spoke recently to Scripps researcher Paul Ponganis who mentored Jessica through her graduate studies.

"She's got the right stuff, she could become an astronaut," he said.

Prior to getting the nod from NASA, Jessica was an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. She's the most interesting woman in the world, soon to be out of this world.

"I really enjoy studying foreign languages and cultures so the emergence in the Russian culture and society that we'll have as part of the ISS," Jessica said.

"You feel like an academic father to see them be able to achieve these goals, and certainly for her to become an astronaut candidate, I know she wanted to do that for so long. I was just so proud and happy for her," Ponganis said.

NASA is working toward a goal of sending humans to a captured, relocated asteroid in the next decade, and landing humans on Mars in the 2030s.

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