Christina Koch, an astronaut with a degree from North Carolina State University, landed among Time’s Top 100 Most Influential People.
At 6:30 a.m. Oct. 18, 2019, Koch and astronaut Jessica Meir, who was placed on the list alongside her, suited up for their mission, the 221st spacewalk performed in support of space station assembly.
Koch and Meir worked to replace a battery charge/discharge unit that failed to activate after new lithium-ion batteries were installed on the International Space Station’s exterior structure earlier that month.
“In the past women haven’t always been at the table,” Koch said in an interview about the historic spacewalk, according to NASA. “It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space program at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role. That can lead in turn to increased chance for success. There are a lot of people who derive motivation from inspiring stories of people who look like them, and I think it’s an important story to tell.”
In March 2019, NASA canceled what was expected to be the first-ever all-female spacewalk.
Koch and fellow astronaut Anne McClain were set for a spacewalk on March 29 which would have marked the first with only women in the International Space Station’s 21-year history.
Instead, Koch did the spacewalk with fellow astronaut Nick Hague.
Prior to the scheduled walk, crews realized Koch and McClain could not do the spacewalk together. McClain did not realize until she was at the space station that the medium-sized spacesuit fit her better. Koch also wears a medium, and only one medium spacesuit was available at that time at the International Space Station.
McClain became the 13th woman to walk in space on March 11, which is when the team made that realization, and Koch became the 14th woman in history to do a spacewalk on March 29. Meir later became the 15th woman to achieve that feat.
NASA later announced that Koch and astronaut Jessica Meir were scheduled for the October spacewalk, rekindling hope to see the historic milestone achieved.
Koch also made history for the longest single spaceflight by a woman with an astounding 328 days. She broke the record of 288 days set by Peggy Whitson in 2016 and 2017.
Her spaceflight ran just 12 days short of the all-time record of 340 days set by Scott Kelly in 2015 and 2016.