Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir prepares to return to a changed Earth

Astronaut Jessica Meir before launching on a mission to the International Space Station. Photo: Sergei Savostyanov/TASS via Getty Images

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir told reporters ahead of her return to Earth that watching the coronavirus crisis unfold from space has been “quite surreal” — and that she is looking forward to getting home, even if the pandemic has changed it.

Meir and fellow astronaut Andrew Morgan spoke to reporters from space on Friday, a week ahead of their scheduled return after nearly seven months on the International Space Station.

“It will be very difficult to not be able to give hugs to my family and friends,” Meir said. She added: “I think for me it’ll still be nice to go back and to see some familiar places and some familiar faces.”

“I think that I will actually feel more isolated on the Earth than I did up here because that’s just part of our expected routine up here,” Meir also said. “We’re so busy with so many other amazing pursuits and we have this incredible vantage point of the Earth below, that we don’t really feel as much of that isolation.”

Last week, Meir offered advice about how to stay mentally healthy while living in isolation. And in March, she tweeted a photo of Tel Aviv that she took from space, in which the usually bustling Israeli city is seen looking desolate amid the spread of the coronavirus.

The astronaut also posted a photo of Israel in November as a tribute to her father. She also tweeted a Hanukkah greeting that included a photo of her holiday-themed socks with Earth seen through the window in the background.