NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch returned to Earth after setting a record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman. During her 328 days in space, she completed six spacewalks, including conducting the first all-female spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.
How much do you know about this record-setting space traveler?
She always wanted to be an astronaut. Koch, whose name is pronounced "Cook," was born in Michigan and grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina. As a young girl, she often looked up at the sky through the telescope in her backyard. "Most kids probably dream of becoming an astronaut. I was just the one that never grew out of it," Koch told The News & Observer in an interview in a July 2019 interview from the International Space Station.
She's close to family. When asked who she would take to space with her (not including astronauts), Koch told Teen Vogue, "My husband and my parents. My parents gave me everything I needed to chase my dreams. And my husband is my best friend." The 40-year-old astronaut lives in Galveston, Texas, with her husband, Bob, and a dog named Sadie Lou who really missed her when she was gone. That's their sweet reunion in the video below.
She has a strong science background. Koch graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and physics and a master of science in electrical engineering.
Before space, she worked in remote locales and also helped NASA. She worked in remote scientific field engineering, spending time in stations in Antarctica and Alaska. She worked on space science instrument development for NASA and for Johns Hopkins University. She contributed to instruments studying radiation particles for NASA missions, including Juno and the Van Allen Probes, according to NASA.
Odds of getting picked to be an astronaut aren't good. Koch was chosen by NASA as an astronaut in 2013 and completed astronaut candidate training in July 2015. She was one of eight candidates chosen from a pool of more than 6,000.
She logged millions of miles. During her mission, Koch completed 5,248 orbits of the Earth and a journey of 139 million miles. With her six spacewalks, she spent 42 hours and 15 minutes outside the station.
Her spacewalks made history. Koch was part of three all-woman spacewalks during her time in space. Her first spacewalk originally was planned with astronaut Anne McClain, but there weren't enough suits to fit both women. That would've been NASA's first all-female spacewalk. Instead, on March 29, Koch and astronaut Nick Hague worked on the International Space Station's power storage system for nearly seven hours. Then, on Oct. 18, Koch and Jessica Meir suited up and made history for the first all-female spacewalk.
"We caught each other's eye and we knew that we were really honored with this opportunity to inspire so many, and just hearing our voices talk to Mission Control," Koch said in a NASA interview.
She's outdoorsy. No surprise, but Koch's favorite hobbies include travel and photography. She also enjoys backpacking, rock climbing, paddling, surfing, running, yoga and community service.
If she weren't an astronaut... "I love building and fixing things, and so I always gravitated toward engineering or science instrumentation work," Koch tells Teen Vogue. "It's a bonus if I get to do that work in an interesting place like in the Antarctic or a remote island. I also love community service, tutoring or anything that spreads the love of science or reading. One day I hope to open an adult literacy program wherever I live."
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was first published in early February 2020.