BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids native blasted off Thursday on a historic trip to the International Space Station.
Christina Koch launched on Expedition 59 in Kazakhstan at 3:14 p.m. ET. The trip took her to the International Space Station, where she is set to make history as part of the first all-women spacewalk. NASA says the historic walk is a coincidence.
NASA selected Koch for its astronaut program six years ago. Her background is on the technical side of space operations, and she will serve as a flight engineer for this mission and Expedition 60. This is her first flight into space, but she’s been preparing in jets and rockets. She’s also trained for her spacewalk in a pool big enough to fit a model of the International Space Station.
>>PDF: NASA’s Expedition 59 mission
“After six years of training, I’m ready to just give back to this program that I’ve always held in such high regard. I’m ready to contribute everything that the training program has given me, and to just give back. And I hope to be able to look back on the expedition as one that has taken everything that we know and have learned so far in space exploration to the next level, and contribute it to our future goals of going back to the moon and eventually Mars,” Koch said before the launch.
After arriving in space, the crew had a chance to video call friends and family who were back on Earth. A loved one told Koch her “space face is adorable.”
“I haven’t seen my space face yet, so we will see,” she said with a laugh.
The Expedition 59 crew will use tissue chips to study how microgravity impacts the human body, test free-flying robots inside ISS and study Earth’s carbon cycle.
Koch’s historic seven-hour spacewalk with Anne McClain is scheduled for March 29.
Koch will again return to space for Expedition 60 to the ISS in October.