Since I grew up with the American space program, I have long been fascinated by the men and women who get to sit atop those huge rockets and be thrust beyond Earth’s atmosphere. That’s why I was happy to see “A Year In Space,” the PBS documentary which is running this month. It’s about Scott Kelly, the astronaut who spent 340 consecutive days on the International Space Station, and the effects on his body of such a prolonged period of weightlessness.

Its companion piece, “Beyond A Year In Space” (which you can watch aboves) features my guest, Dr. Jessica Meir, one of the new class of astronauts who may one day go on a mission to Mars. She graduated from training two years ago, and although she hasn’t left Earth yet, she’s been very involved behind the scenes while waiting for her first opportunity to launch.

In our conversation, I asked if she’s prepping for a Mars mission, or if it’s more likely NASA will return to the moon first. As a physiologist who has studied animals in extreme environments, I asked what life will be like for humans on Mars, and how much of a threat solar radiation is as it bombards everything outside Earth’s atmosphere (even inside the ISS). We also talked about NASA’s new Orion capsule and rocket (which will mean we no longer have to be dependent on the Russian space program to get us up and down), her experience as an Aquanaut, and what it was like to visit the Apollo mission control room with Jim Lovell, who orbited the moon in Apollo 8 and lived through the Apollo 13 mishap, too.

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