Featured Article: “Christina Koch Lands on Earth, and Crosses a Threshold for Women in Space”
Last year, the first all-female spacewalk was canceled because NASA didn’t have two spacesuits that fit.
Earlier this month, however, Christina Koch returned to Earth from the International Space Station having completed three all-female spacewalks and setting a record for time in space.
In this lesson, you will learn about Ms. Koch’s record-setting mission and its impact on future spaceflight. In a Going Further activity, you will create a children’s book to celebrate her life.
Do you know the name of the first American female astronaut? How about the first African-American woman to serve in Congress?
Take a few minutes and brainstorm a list of female trailblazers, pioneers and heroes who achieved historic firsts.
Consider celebrated groundbreakers like Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and unsung heroes who might not have received as much attention in history books and popular lore.
Afterward, share and discuss your list with a partner:
What do you notice about your lists? Do you have any people in common?
How did you learn about these pioneers and their historic firsts? From school, textbooks, popular culture, friends or family?
Do you believe these pioneers have received the proper amount of attention — or perhaps in some cases, too much credit?
Why do you think it is important to learn about these groundbreaking figures? In particular, how can they inspire young people who learn of their feats?
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. The article begins: “How many astronauts can you name without consulting Google or Wikipedia?” Why do you think Mary Robinette Kowal, the author, chose to start her essay this way? What point was she trying to make? Were you able to name any astronauts?
2. What achievements did Christina Koch accomplish during her recently completed mission in space? Which achievement does the author believe she will be most remembered for? Do you agree?
3. How was the first all-female spacewalk “practically an accident”? What does this reveal about the role of chance in history?
4. Ms. Kowal describes several areas of research conducted by Ms. Koch on the mission. Select the one you think is most significant and describe how it might benefit both the space program and the world.
5. What current restrictions does NASA place on female astronauts? How might Ms. Koch’s successful mission change these?
6. The article ends:
In the future, someone will pass these endurance records. The first woman will walk on the moon, NASA promises. Two or more women will go on the first all-woman launch. Perhaps we’ll see the first all-woman crew on the ISS. But for now, those missions remain mere potentialities. Ms. Koch has earned her place in the history books, and by crossing these thresholds, has opened a door to the future.
And, hopefully, she’s become one more astronaut that you can name.
How important are Ms. Koch’s achievements? What impact will they have on the next generation of astronauts? What place do you think she deserves in history?
Choose one of more of the following activities:
1) Reflect on the importance of historical firsts and the pioneers who achieve them.
Why do we remember and laud historical firsts — particularly by women and historically marginalized groups? Are they still important to celebrate in 2020?
What types of firsts in history do you generally regard as most significant? Is there one in particular that is most meaningful to you? Why?
Do you think a woman will walk on the moon in your lifetime? What historical firsts would you most like to see in your lifetime? Explain why.
2). Create a comic book or children’s book to celebrate the life and achievements of Christina Koch or another female trailblazer.
Imagine you have been asked to help create a comic book or children’s book on an inspiring pioneer. You can choose to celebrate the achievements of the astronaut Christina Koch or another female trailblazer, role model or hero.
Which aspects of their life, story and achievements would you highlight? What aspects do you feel would be most engaging and important for a third grader to learn? What impact would you hope your book could make?
If your time is limited, you might concentrate on creating the cover and first page of your book.
Need more information on Ms. Koch? You can find her biography and pictures and videos from her record-setting mission on the NASA website here.