Two astronauts and a cosmonaut are expected to launch aboard a Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft to the International Space Station at 3:14 p.m. Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Six hours later, they should dock at the space station.

Expedition 59 will see NASA astronauts Christina Koch, a graduate of N.C. State, and Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin joining NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos station commander Oleg Kononenko and the Canadian Space Agency’s David Saint-Jacques.

This will be only the fourth time that an Expedition crew includes two female astronauts.

On March 29, Koch – who will be on her first trip to space – and McClain will participate in the first all-female spacewalk.

McClain and Hague will also have a spacewalk March 22. Hague, Koch and McClain are part of NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, half of whom are women.

Together, the space station crew members will conduct experiments including biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science in the microgravity lab.

Hague and Ovchinin are getting a second chance after their original October 11 launch failed.

Bio: Christina Hammock Koch NASA Astronaut

Christina H. Koch was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2013. She completed astronaut candidate training in July 2015. Koch, a native of Michigan, graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Physics and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering. She is currently assigned to launch March 2019 and will serve aboard the International Space Station as a flight engineer for Expedition 59 and 60.

NASA photo

Official NASA astronaut portrait of Christina Koch. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

Personal Data:

Although born in Michigan, Koch considers her hometown to be Jacksonville, North Carolina and most recently resided in Livingston, Montana. She is married to Robert Koch. Her parents are Barbara Johnsen of Frederick, Maryland and Dr. Ronald Hammock of Jacksonville, North Carolina. Koch enjoys backpacking, rock climbing, paddling, sailing, running, yoga, community service, photography and travel.


Graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, North Carolina (1997). She attended North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (2001), a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (2002).


Koch has experience both in space science instrument development and remote scientific field engineering. She worked as an Electrical Engineer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics, where she contributed to scientific instruments on several NASA missions studying cosmology and astrophysics. During this time, she also served as Adjunct Faculty at Montgomery College where she led a Physics Laboratory course. Koch moved on to become a Research Associate in the United States Antarctic Program from 2004 to 2007. She completed a winter‐over season at the Admunsen‐Scott South Pole Station and a season at Palmer Station. While in Antarctica, she was a member of the Firefighting Teams and Ocean/Glacier Search and Rescue Teams. From 2007 to 2009, Koch returned to space science instrument development as an Electrical Engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s Space Department. She contributed to instruments studying radiation particles for NASA missions, including Juno and the Van Allen Probes. During this time, she volunteered as a tutor at Anne Arundel Community College in various science and mathematics subjects. In 2010, Koch returned to remote scientific field work with tours including Palmer Station in Antarctica and multiple winter seasons at Summit Station in Greenland. In 2012, Koch continued work at remote scientific bases, now with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She served as a Field Engineer at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division Baseline Observatory in Barrow Alaska, and then as Station Chief of the American Samoa Observatory. During this time, she participated in many opportunities for educational outreach to share the scientific work being done at these remote stations.

NASA Experience:

Koch graduated from the NASA Academy program at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in 2001. She worked as an Electrical Engineer in the Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics at GSFC from 2002 to 2004. Koch was selected in June 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class. Her Astronaut Candidate Training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T‐38 flight training, and water and wilderness survival training.

She is currently assigned to launch March 2019 and will serve aboard the International Space Station as a flight engineer for Expedition 59 and 60.


NASA Group Achievement Award, NASA Juno Mission Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument, 2012; Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Invention of the Year nominee, 2009; United States Congress Antarctic Service Medal with Winter‐Over distinction, 2005; NASA Group Achievement Award, NASA Suzaku Mission X‐ray Spectrometer Instrument, 2005; Astronaut Scholar, Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, 2000 to 2001.

Source: NASA

Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster, and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft, according to a NASA statement.

“We were violently shaken side to side, thrust back into our seats as the launch escape system ripped us away from the rocket,” Hague described. “As all of that’s happening, you’re being shaken around, vision is blurry. I hear the alarm sounding and see the red light where the engine has had an emergency. I had the vivid realization we aren’t making it to orbit today, we’ve been pulled off rocket and we have to land.”

They walked away from the harrowing landing on Earth with a few bumps and bruises, eager to return to space.

In November, Russian investigators said that the abnormal separation of the booster could be due to a sensor that was damaged during assembly.

“The launch ended … due to the abnormal separation of one of the side blocks (block D) that hit the central block (block A ) in the fuel tank, which led to its depressurization and, consequently, to the loss of stabilization of the space rocket,” said Oleg Skorobogatov, the head of the commission probing the failure.

The new launch comes on the heels of the launch and return of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that could be carrying astronauts as soon as this summer.

And the astronauts can join Little Earth, or Earthy, who is still floating around the station after launching on Crew Dragon.

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