Jacksonville native performs first spacewalk as NASA astronaut

JACKSONVILLE, NC (WITN) - NASA astronaut and Jacksonville native Christina Koch is performing her first spacewalk on a mission outside the International Space Station this morning.

Koch will be alongside Astronaut Nick Hague. The duo will spend roughly seven hours installing powerful lithium ion batteries for one pair of the ISS' solar arrays. The batteries provide power to the ISS when it is shadowed from the sun by the Earth.

Koch attended White Oak High School for two years before transferring to the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham. She is a North Carolina State graduate.

The work began on Friday after NASA called off its first ever all-female spacewalk with Koch and Astronaut Anne McClain because of issues with the sizes of spacesuits. Hague participated instead of McClain. The decision sparked a great debate on social media.

NASA said on Twitter Tuesday:
We’ve seen your tweets about spacesuit availability for Friday’s spacewalk. To clarify, we have more than 1 medium size spacesuit torso aboard, but to stay on schedule with @Space_Station upgrades, it’s safer & faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits.

Astronaut Anne McClain also responded from space, tweeting:
This decision was based on my recommendation. Leaders must make tough calls, and I am fortunate to work with a team who trusts my judgement. We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated. Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first.

Koch said on Twitter afterward, "Great day of teamwork both on and off the Earth."

McClain later tweeted, "Tune in - history is made every day up here!"

You can watch it live via NASA TV at https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#public.

You can find all three astronauts involved on Facebook and Twitter.
Christina Koch: Twitter
Nick Hague: Twitter
Anne McClain: Twitter

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Jacksonville native and astronaut Christina Koch is preparing for her first space flight to the International Space Station in March.

Koch grew up as a member of a civilian family in Jacksonville and earned bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and physics and a master's degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University.

Currently based at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, she encourages everyone to shoot for the stars.

"Make sure to live the life that you are imagining for yourself and even if you don't see it around you you can go for your dreams," she said.

It will be Koch's first trip to space.

She'll launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14 with fellow Nasa astronaut, Nick Hague, and Russian cosmonaut, Alexey Ovchinin.

It will take the crew six hours in orbit to dock their spacecraft on the ISS.

While aboard the ISS, Koch will conduct a variety of of science experiments that aren't possible on earth and will also be part of an experiment herself as NASA studies the effects of months in space on the human body.

"The purpose of the space station primarily is to conduct science of many types, science that benefits the earth, science that can inform future missions to deeper space exploration and basically to explore fundamental science in a lot of areas," Koch said.

Koch will be aboard the International Space Station for six months.

You can follow her journey on social media here: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.