Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Governor Cooper Honors NASA Astronaut and North Carolina Native Christina Koch, Highlights North Carolina’s Strong Public Schools

Apr 24, 2024

Today, Governor Roy Cooper honored NASA Astronaut and North Carolina Native Christina Koch for her accomplishments and celebrated North Carolina’s STEM education programs and strong public schools. During the event, Governor Cooper presented NASA Astronaut Koch with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s Highest Honorary Society. The Governor was joined by Congresswoman Deborah Ross and other elected officials, educators, scientists and a third grade class from The Exploris School – a public charter school in downtown Raleigh.

“Astronaut Koch’s journey from North Carolina public schools to space is inspiring to all of us and shows the amazing opportunities that come from a public education in our state,” said Governor Cooper. “When we invest in our public schools, we invest in the future of our state and planet.”

“With the planting of an Artemis Moon Tree today at the Governors mansion, North Carolina is firmly planting the roots of exploration for generations to come,” said NASA Astronaut Christina Koch. “It is an honor to share the excitement of space with students and future explorers in my home state. These students will make up the Artemis generation and allow humanity to accomplish big things in space and on Earth in the future.”

“I was honored to join Governor Cooper in welcoming Astronaut Christina Koch back home to North Carolina today,” said Congresswoman Deborah Ross“As the only woman selected to join the Artemis II Mission, Christina is paving the way for important discoveries in space and breaking down barriers for women and girls everywhere who want to pursue a career in this field. In Congress, I will continue working with my colleagues on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee for robust federal funding for NASA that makes historic missions like this possible.”

At the event, a Loblolly Pine sapling – a plant native to North Carolina – that was grown from seeds that traveled to space on the Artemis I mission was presented to the Governor. It will be planted on the grounds of the Executive Mansion. The Governor was also given a North Carolina flag that was flown in space during Expeditions 59, 60, and 61 to the International Space Station.

During the event, Koch highlighted her journey from North Carolina public schools to exploring the final frontier of space. Koch grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina and attended North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham and White Oak High School in Jacksonville. She then attended North Carolina State University where she earned Bachelor of Science degrees in electrical engineering and physics and a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering, as well as an Honorary PhD.

Koch was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2013 and served as a flight engineer on the International Space Station for three expeditions. She will be returning to space as Mission Specialist I of NASA’s Artemis II Mission. Artemis II is planned to launch September 2025 and will be the first mission to take humans to deep space in more than 50 years.

Governor Cooper declared 2024 as the Year of Public Schools and is spending this year highlighting North Carolina’s strong public schools, teachers and staff across the state to show the positive impacts of a well-funded public education system on the state’s economy and communities. From career readiness to educating future astronauts, North Carolina public schools go above and beyond in preparing students for whatever comes next in their lives.

Read "The Year of Public Schools" proclamation here.

Read the Governor’s remarks from “The Year of Public Schools” launch event here.


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