WASHINGTON — Christina Koch is no stranger to hard work, or to success.
The 44-year-old NASA astronaut holds the record for the longest single space mission by a woman (328 days), was half of the duo that performed the world's first all-woman spacewalk outside the International Space Station (with crewmate Jessica Meir in 2019) and — next year, if current schedules hold — will be the first woman in history to fly to the moon. Kcch is a mission specialist for Artemis 2, NASA's first crewed flight to the moon in 50 years.
Artemis 2 will launch Koch and three other crewmates on a 10-day trip around the moon in November 2024 in what will be the first astronaut flight of NASA's Artemis program. The mission follows the agency's successful uncrewed Artemis 1 test flight in November 2022 and will pave the way for Artemis 3, which NASA hopes will land astronauts on the moon by the end of 2025.
Related: Meet the 4 astronauts flying on NASA's Artemis 2 moon mission
There's a lot riding on the mission, Koch told reporters here in an event outside the U.S. Capitol Building hosted by Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona), himself a former NASA astronaut. First, there's the responsibility to do well on behalf of the thousands of people working to make Artemis 2 a success, she explained. But then it goes deeper.
"We have a responsibility to you all, and that's to carry your dreams, your aspirations, with us on this mission, and to bring back the perspective that we gain to you and to share that," Koch said. "So thank you for that responsibility. We don't take it lightly, and we look forward to many decades of continuing in the Artemis mission."
As Koch spoke, groups of schoolchildren in matching shirts walked by on school tours of the U.S. Capitol, leading one reporter to ask what advice the Artemis 2 crew had for those students today who might aspire to visit the moon or be the first human on Mars. For Koch, it comes down to three basic things.
1. Follow your passion
"Some of the advice that I've given people is to follow your passion," Koch began. "When you're contributing to something that you're truly passionate about, you're going to be the most successful, and you're going to give the most back to the world."
That makes sense. If you're passionate about something, then you're more likely to put more time and effort to succeed at it, and then feel great when you do.
2. Do what scares you
Koch's second piece of advice may be a bit surprising.
"Do what scares you," the astronaut said. But she doesn't mean drop everything and go skydiving.
"I say that because I think oftentimes the things that intrigue us, but that we think are just outside of our reach, are exactly the things we need to be doing," Koch explained "And the reason is, when we achieve something that we thought we couldn't, we actually give the most back to our to our world, and we find the most fulfillment, which drives us even further."
The takeaway? If a project seems a bit daunting, don't automatically brush it aside for something easier. If you can, take a chance and try it out.
3. Support the people around you.
Last but not least, Koch has some sage advice that we can all use on a daily basis.
"Support the people around you," she said. "Make sure that you're thinking about the success of those around you."
If that sounds a bit like "Teamwork Makes The Dream Work," you're not wrong. Support and success go hand in hand for anyone tackling an ambitious project, Koch explained.
"You're helping them, and together we all will achieve as much as we possibly can," Koch said.
Koch is a veteran of six spacewalks and a super-long mission to the International Space Station that launched in March 2019 and landed in February 2020. She will launch around the moon on Artemis 2 with mission commander Reid Wiseman; pilot Victor Glover (both of NASA); and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen. Koch and Hansen are mission specialists for the flight.
NASA's Artemis 2 mission will launch on an Orion spacecraft and massive Space Launch System megarocket. It will be the first crewed mission for each vehicle.