Dream achieved: NC State grad breaks record for longest space flight by a woman

Astronaut and Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Christina Koch works on U.S. spacesuits inside the...
Astronaut and Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Christina Koch works on U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. Koch will remain on board until February 2020, approaching but not quite breaking Scott Kelly’s 340-day U.S. record. She is making history by breaking the record for the longest single space flight by a woman.(NASA AP)
Published: Dec. 28, 2019 at 4:27 PM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (Ashad Hajela and Kate Murphy/News & Observer) - An NC State graduate became the world record holder for the longest single space flight by a woman Saturday.

Forty-year-old Christina Koch broke Peggy Whitson’s record on her 289th day in space. She is expected to stay in space for 328 days, according to NASA.

“No one told me I had a crazy dream,” Koch told previously told The News & Observer in an interview from the International Space Station. “No one told me I couldn’t do it. And so that dream kept right on growing and growing.”

Koch obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in electrical engineering and physics from NC State in 2001 and a Master’s degree in electrical engineering in 2002.

She has also participated in four spacewalks. She made history in the first all-female spacewalk with Jessica Meir in October to install a solar power system for the station, CBS News reported.

Koch has dreamed of being an astronaut since she was in kindergarten, her younger sister Denise Clayton previously told The News & Observer. “It’s something she always wanted and she’s always been really focused on,” she said.

“She had a thirst for knowledge. She wasn’t there to just get good grades, she was there to learn and get new experiences,” Josh Blondin, an NC State professor and senior associate dean for administration said of her time at NC State, in a previous interview with The News & Observer.


Koch graduated from the NASA Academy program at Goddard Space Flight Center in 2001. She worked there as an electrical engineer before becoming a research associate in the United States Antarctic program, when she spent time at the South Pole.

“When I was at the South Pole, the coldest it got — and I didn’t go outside — was minus 111,” Koch previously told the N&O. “That was during the winter, so it’s dark 24 hours a day, and for some of our jobs, we are required to go outside, even in weather like that.”

She was also part of a research tour in Greenland and designed instruments that were part of probes that orbit Jupiter and Earth.

Koch was selected as one of eight members in the 21st NASA astronaut class in 2013 — the first class that was half female and half male, CBS News reported.

Koch is expected to return to Earth in February, according to NASA.

Koch was The News & Observer’s Tar Heel of the month in August, which honors significant contributions by people from North Carolina. She was also considered for Tar Heel of the Year.