Christina Hammock Koch: an accomplished astronaut
An American engineer, Christina Hammock Koch, was born on January 29, 1979. She is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina and resided in Livingston, Montana, before relocating to Houston, Texas, to join the Astronaut Corps.
According to her biographical information on NASA’s website, Koch attended North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (2001), a Bachelor of Science in Physics, a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (2002). She attended high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, North Carolina (1997) and White Oak High School in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She received an Honorary Ph.D. from North Carolina State University in 2020.
Koch’s career before becoming an Astronaut spanned two general areas: space science instrument development and remote scientific field engineering. Her career began as an Electrical Engineer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics, where she contributed to scientific instruments on several NASA space science missions. Koch then became a Research Associate in the United States Antarctic Program from 2004 to 2007. This included a yearlong stay with a winter-over at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and a Palmer Station season. While in this role, she served as a member of the Firefighting and Search and Rescue Teams. From 2007 to 2009, Koch returned to space science instrument development as an Electrical Engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s Space Department. She contributed to instruments studying radiation for NASA missions, including Juno and the Van Allen Probes. In 2010, Koch returned to remote scientific fieldwork with Palmer Station in Antarctica and multiple winter seasons at Summit Station in Greenland. In 2012, Koch continued work at remote scientific bases with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She served as a Field Engineer at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division Baseline Observatory in Utqiagvik, Alaska and then as Station Chief of the American Samoa Observatory. Throughout her career, she was involved in technical instructing, volunteer tutoring and educational outreach.
On February 6th, Koch returned to Earth after making history during a nearly year-long stay onboard the International Space Station. She had just broken the record for longest continuous spaceflight by a woman, and while she was up there, she performed the first all-female spacewalk in history with her friend and crewmate Jessica Meir. They did three total spacewalks together. According to BBC, Koch spent 328 days on the International Space Station (ISS), breaking the previous record held by another American, Peggy Whitson.
“Oh, how I miss the wind on my face, the feeling of raindrops, sand on my feet and the sound of the surf crashing on the Galveston beach,” Koch said in anticipation of her arrival.
Upon her arrival, NBC quoted her as saying, “I am so overwhelmed and happy right now,” Koch said as she exited the craft. After 11 months in orbit, the astronaut smiled, gave a thumbs-up and was helped into a chair for a post-flight check-up. Russian space officials said all three astronauts are healthy.
Astronautics Engineer Award, National Space Club & Foundation, 2020; Global ATHENA Leadership Award, ATHENA International, 2020. NASA Group Achievement Award, NASA Juno Mission Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument, 2012; Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Invention of the Year nominee, 2009; United States Congress Antarctic Service Medal with Winter-Over distinction, 2005; NASA Group Achievement Award, NASA Suzaku Mission X-ray Spectrometer Instrument, 2005.
Giving advice for young people who want to make their dreams come true, Christina Hammock Koch said “it’s all about heading down the road of finding and engaging in unique experiences that you’re passionate about. This will broaden your perspectives and start your learning about leadership, communication, challenges, and being successful pursuing your dreams in a wide variety of situations”.