The International Space Station welcomed a new team Thursday after the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft successfully docked, according to NASA.
NASA’s Christina Hammock Koch, a Michigan native who grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, was one of three people on the spacecraft, alongside NASA’s Nick Hague and Russia’s Alexey Ovchinin.
The team docked to the station at 9:01 p.m. after a six-hour flight to space, officially beginning their mission, Expedition 59.
Koch will return to Earth this fall.
While at the ISS, she will brave space in the first all-female crew to conduct a spacewalk, according to North Carolina State University.
Koch is a three-time graduate of North Carolina State University with bachelor’s degrees in physics and electrical engineering with a master’s in electrical engineering.
In an interview, she told N.C. State that she would bring special reminders of her time at the university and the North Carolina School of Science and Math.
“I’m taking some small emblems of both up with me,” she said. “I feel that they both prepared me so well that this is a little way for me to say ‘Thank you’ for all that preparation and for the people who worked there that cared about my education and my development to get me where I am.”
After almost six years of training, NASA selected Koch as one of eight astronauts in the Class of 2013.
During her time at the space station, she will conduct experiments and perform general maintenance work.
And, on March 29, she will go out into space as part of the first all-female crew to conduct a spacewalk in the ISS’s 21-year history.
“I’m looking forward to knowing that my friends and family are there and that they know I am carrying their dreams with me,” Koch told N.C. State. “They all helped support me and get me where I am.”