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Meet the First Maine Woman in Space

A Maine native is making history in space.

Astronaut Jessica Meir became the first Mainer to leave Earth's atmosphere Wednesday as she headed to the International Space Station on a monthslong mission.

Meir was one of three people who blasted off from Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz rocket at 9:57 a.m. ET, 6:57 p.m. local time.

Meir is the valedictorian of Caribou High School's Class of 1995 and the only American on this particular launch.

She has been training as an astronaut since 2013, everywhere from Russia to Houston, after initially getting rejected for the astronaut program.

"One of the biggest objectives of my mission is to be able to share it with everybody," she told NBC affiliate News Center Maine this summer. "All the people I grew up with in Maine and beyond that."

Wednesday morning, dozens of Mainers in her hometown packed the cafeteria at Caribou Middle School to watch a NASA livestream of the launch.

"It's really amazing to see her break through barriers people set," said Clair Ouelette, an eighth grader there.

Other Mainers called Meir inspiring and some were reminded of another New England astronaut, New Hampshire's Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who was on board the Space Shuttle Challenger that tragically shortly after takeoff in 1986.

"I think Jessica has that same potential to have that impact on students here in the U.S., especially in Maine," said Mary Donahue, a resident of Pittsfield, Maine, who is originally from New Hampshire. "As a former teacher, I think it's incredibly exciting."

Meir is likely excited, too. Her crew was expected to dock at the ISS Wednesday afternoon eastern time.

She's fulfilling a lifelong dream and may conduct a spacewalk before she returns to Earth in early 2020.

Until then, she'll be in orbit. She said she'd bring canned Maine lobster up with her.

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