Galveston resident and NASA astronaut Christina Koch has gone where few men and fewer women have gone — to space, and she made history there.
Koch gave a presentation as part of the Galveston College’s “New Worlds” lecture series Tuesday in the Abe and Annie Seibel Foundation Wing on the campus, 4015 Ave. Q.
She spoke about her life and her journey to becoming an astronaut for NASA.
“When I was young, I was fascinated by things that made me feel small; things that made me ponder my place in the universe,” Koch said.
Koch studied electrical engineering and physics at North Carolina State University, she said.
“I was fortunate enough to have an internship that I had turned into a full time job at NASA,” Koch said.
Koch became an electrical engineer and worked on space science instruments for NASA, she said.
“I got to make the gadgets that study the solar system and our universe,” Koch said.
Two years into her job, she left to explore Antarctica and the rest of the world, she said.
“I decided that maybe I’ve accumulated enough experience and skills following my passions to put my name in the hat to achieve becoming an astronaut,” Koch said.
She was chosen to be part of an eight-member team of astronauts, she said.
She had to learn the Russian language, become an expert on robotic systems aboard the International Space Station and learn to pilot jet aircraft, she said.
“We actually used T-38 supersonic jets to train to become astronauts,” Koch said. “So people like me, that have a background in engineering solving problems in a lab, had to learn how to solve tough problems with a crew mate because your life depended on it.”
In March 2019, she boarded Soyuz MS-12 to be launched to the International Space Station, she said.
“This day was like no other,” Koch said. “What I remember thinking was the next place I’ll be is in space.”
Koch lived on the International Space Station for 11 months, she said.
The International Space Station is a large spacecraft and science lab that orbits around the world, according to NASA.
The International Space Station also is the most expensive man-made object with a cost of more than $100 billion, according to the Guinness World Records.
Astronauts study such things as pharmaceuticals, plants and themselves while aboard the craft, Koch said.
“One of my favorite things was growing plants, because it’s the one thing that smells like Earth,” she said. “When you’ve been up there for a while, you tend to forget the scent.”
One of the most difficult things to learn about are spacewalks, Koch said.
A spacewalk is anytime an astronaut gets out of a vehicle while in space, according to NASA’s website.
Koch has conducted six spacewalks during her career and made history as part of the first all-woman spacewalk.
More than the gender of astronauts made that spacewalk special, Koch said.
“It was unexpected and unplanned,” she said. “Normally, spacewalks are planned within a span of years. We actually planned it together with the ground team within the week.”
She most recently served as flight engineer on the International Space Station for Expeditions 59, 60 and 61, according to NASA.
Koch also talked about NASA’s plan for landing on Mars to conduct research, she said.
It was an honor to speak in Galveston, the community that had supported her career from the beginning, Koch said.
Koch is known for setting the record for the longest single space flight by a woman after spending 328 days outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
“What they don’t often say about that record is that it wasn’t just 328 days in space,” Koch said. “It was 328 days away from this beautiful island of Galveston that I call home and that I love.”