Biography Christina Koch, the American astronaut, along with Jessica Meir, performed an historic spacewalk, outside the International Space Station, in October 2019.
A solid scientific background coupled with her privileged intelligence and remarkable physical courage made Christina Koch the special candidate for this mission.
These two astronauts went outside the Station to install lithium batteries that will improve the ship’s energy supply.
Academic background of Christina Koch
Christina Koch was born on February 2, 1979, in Michigan, but she considers herself from Jacksonville, North Carolina.
When she was just 18, she graduated from the North Carolina College of Science and Mathematics in Durham.
Subsequently, she enrolled at North Carolina State University, Raleigh.
Founded in 1887, this university is now the largest university in North Carolina. Although it is a university with 102 undergraduate study areas, it specializes in agriculture, design, engineering, and textiles.
At this university, Christina obtained two degrees: “Sciences in Electrical Engineering” in 2001; and “Physics” in 2002. She then completed a Master in Electrical Engineering.
Christina Koch’s work experience
Christina Koch worked as an electrical engineer at NASA’s “High Energy Astrophysics Laboratory” at the Goddard Space Center.
At this Space Flight Center, she contributed to the design and construction of scientific instruments for various NASA missions.
These works gave her experience both in the development of space science instruments and in field engineering for studies of cosmology and astrophysics.
For a time, she also served as an adjunct faculty at Montgomery College, where she led a Physics Laboratory course.
Works carried out by Christina Koch in Antarctica
From 2004 to 2007, Christina Koch was a research associate in the “United States Antarctic Program“.
She completed a winter season at Amundsen-Scott Station.
Amundsen-Scott Station is a station in the United States that is located practically at the geographic south pole. It is permanently inhabited. Its name honors Ronald Amundsen and Robert Scott, the first to reach the South Pole in 1911 and 1912, respectively.
While in Antarctica, Christina Koch was a member of the firefighting and search and rescue teams.
In 2010, she returned to scientific field work in remote areas, with tours that included the Palmer Station in Antarctica, the only permanent Antarctic Station in the United States north of the Antarctic polar circle. Although it is on an island, the ice frequently connects it to the mainland.
Christina Koch in the development of space instruments
From 2007 to 2009, Christina Koch returned to work on the development of space science instruments. She did it as an electrical engineer in the “Space Department of the Laboratory of Applied Physics” at Johns Hopkins University.
These instruments are intended to study radiation particles during NASA missions.
Christina Koch’s Jobs at Remote Science Stations
Christina Koch also participated in investigations carried out in Glacier National Park in the American State of Montana.
The glacier is located in the continental divide on the west side and has an average elevation of 2,600 meters above sea level.
Christina Koch spent several winter seasons at the Summit Station in Greenland. It is a research station where meteorology, glaciology, atmospheric chemistry and astrophysics projects are developed.
The Station’s population is 5 inhabitants in the winter and 55 people in the summer. This gives an idea of the weather conditions of the environment.
In 2012, Christina Koch worked as an Engineer at the Global Monitoring Observatory in Barrow, Alaska, hired by the “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration” (NOAA).
NOAA is a scientific agency of the United States Department of Commerce whose activities focus on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere.
This Agency publishes warnings about dangerous weather conditions, prepares charts of seas and skies, guides on the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, and conducts studies to improve understanding and management of the environment.
A short time later, Christina Koch was assigned as Station Chief to the American Samoa Observatory, an island located in the Pacific Ocean, eastern Australia.
Christina Koch selected as an astronaut by NASA
For a year and a half, NASA conducted an extensive search for potential astronauts that will help the Agency push the limits of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system.
Finally, in 2013, eight candidates were selected to be the new NASA astronaut trainees in a team called Group 21.
Of the eight students in the class, chosen from more than 6,000 applicants, four were women. Among them were Christina Koch and Jessica Meir. Both have trained together for the past six years.
Christina Koch’s training as an astronaut candidate included scientific and technical briefings, intensive training on the International Space Station systems, spacewalking, robotics, physiological training, flight training, and survival training in the water and desert.
Spacewalks before Christina Koch’s
In 1963, during the space race, the Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to travel to space.
Valentina Tereshkova flew solo aboard the Vostok 6 capsule, as part of the Soviet space program launched by Yuri Gagarin.
The second woman to perform the feat of space travel was also Russian: Svetlana Savitskaya (in 1982).
Two years later, in 1984, this brave astronaut went on a space walk alongside Vladimir Dzhanibekov.
American astronaut Sally Ride also did a spacewalk a year later.
Expedition 61 to the International Space Station
Since the International Space Station (ISS) began to be built in 2009, it has been necessary to periodically change the astronauts who work on it. Each new group that travels to the ISS is called an Expedition.
Since the International Space Station (ISS) was launched on November 20, 1998, more than 200 spacewalks have been conducted.
There are 15 women who have participated in these walks. In these cases, a man and a woman have always been together.
Expedition 61 began on October 3, 2019, when the Russian Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft, launched on September 25, 2019, arrived at the International Space Station.
Parmitano was accompanied by Aleksandr Skvortsov, Andrew Morgan, Christina Koch, Oleg Skripochka and Jessica Meir.
Jessica Meir and Christina Koch made history when, on October 18, 2019, they performed their first spacewalk together, while carrying out a series of repairs.
On Friday October 18, 2019, the first spacewalk starring only two women was held at the International Space Station (ISS).
At 14:00 noon (Europe time), Christina Koch and Jessica Meir went outside the Station.
As the women went outside the ISS, the four men supported them from inside the Station.
The spacewalk lasted for seven hours and seventeen minutes. After a few moments of adaptation to move through the emptiness of space, the astronauts prepared the tools to begin the repair work.
They replaced a charging and discharging unit for the batteries that collect energy from the solar panels on the port beam of the Station.
The ISS travels through space at a speed of 27,000 kilometers per hour, in an orbit that is about 485 kilometers from Earth.
The outdoor temperature is below 260º C below zero. The void is almost absolute. Exposure to solar radiation and cosmic rays is brutal. There is always the danger of impact with space particles. In short, it is extremely dangerous. It is NOT a “walk”.
The suits they used are known as “Extra vehicular Mobility Units”; they weigh between 135 and 225 kg. They provide controlled air and temperature, power, communications instruments, and protection from radiation and space particles.
Christina Koch returned to Earth on February 6, 2020, landing in Kazakhstan after a record 328-day stay on the International Space Station.
The first thing she did was enjoy the usual at home, eat her favorite foods, take a family trip to the beach and play with her dog.
In an interview, Christina Koch said: “After 328 days in space, the first six days on Earth were filled with much wonder and excitement. We all live on a wonderful planet and it’s great to be back”.