Alumna Assigned to Pilot Spacecraft to ISS
NASA astronaut, and NC State ECE alumna, Christina Hammock Koch has been assigned to the prime slot as rocket pilot for a spaceflight to the International Space Station, scheduled to launch in 2019.
May 25, 2018 By Charles Hall
“I thought that living your life according to a checklist wouldn’t be worthy of someone who could have the responsibility to actually become an astronaut.”
NASA astronaut, and NC State ECE alumna, Christina Hammock Koch has been assigned to the prime slot as rocket pilot for an upcoming spaceflight. She has been assigned to Expedition 59/60, which is set to launch to the International Space Station in April 2019.
Koch, who grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, earned bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and physics (2001), and a master’s degree in electrical engineering (2002) from North Carolina State University.
Koch started her career as an electrical engineer focusing on space science instrument design at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She went on to work as a research associate with the United States Antarctic Program, completing several deployments including spending the winter at the South Pole. She returned to space science instrument design at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, contributing to such missions as the Juno probe to Jupiter. She then returned to her work at remote scientific research stations, including sessions as a field engineer in the Arctic and as station chief with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in American Samoa.
As a child, Koch dreamed of becoming an astronaut. A summer at Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., reshaped her plan to get there. During an appearance at Talley Student Union in 2016, Koch recalled being shown a checklist of essential skills and experiences for a future astronaut.
“I thought that living your life according to a checklist wouldn’t be worthy of someone who could have the responsibility to actually become an astronaut,” she explained. “So I decided then and there to live my life according to my interests and passions. Down the road, if I looked at the experiences that I had gathered, and I thought that I really could contribute to the human spaceflight program as an astronaut, I would apply.”
That philosophy led her to NC State and a diverse set of experiences. Some, like double-majoring in physics and electrical engineering or interning for a summer at NASA, checked the traditional boxes for future astronauts. Others, like being a staff photographer for the student newspaper or volunteering with social justice organizations, strayed outside those boxes. Through them all, Koch focused on the moment in front of her but kept a future in space travel in mind, and that dream is now about to become reality.