By their presence on the earth, men are scattered across the globe, climbing buildings, going to work, giving birth, sending love, and being born. But by definition, their bodies are dispersed across the universe. It is with the knowledge that women make Earth we decide where to place them in space, because these are, like the men, humanity’s most fundamental geological destinations.
Before the year 2069 the last person will leave this earth, so that the quest for that last soul is swiftly and satisfactorily resolved. That reality cannot be denied, nor is it ignored. There is nothing here of this planet that is not, at the same time, void, held together by small planets, many of which are in various stages of settling around giant suns. This planet was created by natural causes, and this is its story; that story needs to be written.
When I look at her Earth, and try to imagine the visit from Jesus Christ on a star-like planet with hills and valleys, it was obvious that there would be no better vessel than Christina Koch. She was once a professor, for a while at Northeastern, and now oversees education for NASA. Koch is everything our planet cannot be.
Koch herself is proof of our common humanity. She has no proof that the Earth is the center of the universe, or that science is true, but the little girl who was born in 2003, and met and befriended a dozen friends, a high school principal, and a good many classmates has seen me through my darkness and my joy, taught me lessons and shocked me with the humor that was only evasively fake at times, and made me human. Her social and professional spirit has made her the delight of many, and will continue to give her a place in history.
Christina Koch did something that few of us can even do. She left earth in a spaceship and entered space. Koch flew in the Space Shuttle Discovery’s back hatch, an encounter that was, says NASA, “short but extraordinary.” The voyage lasted 13 days.
By leaving Earth and arriving in space, Koch, now 41, crossed one of the last few thresholds that women have not reached. Koch crossed that path because she felt, like the rest of us, that the reach of humanity, the nature of the here and now, was greater. She took that step not because of the exercise of power, but because she believed that NASA and science could teach us the important parts of that life.
Part of that belief is rooted in religion, but as the world has changed Koch has grown from a believer to a science teacher. “Spaceflight gets to be more of an art than a science,” she says. That means that astronomy is a bit like art, and art gets better as it is practiced. To that end, Koch teaches her students to take the time to do their homework. She does not tell her students to know as much as they can about each subject, but to look at the big picture and wonder at what surrounds us.
She sees that the only limit on our ability to explore the stars is us. Koch sees that our dreams are within reach. She looks to the stars because the belief in our mastery of the universe has not gone away, even as a stinging realization of the human fallibility and frailty has more often settled on us than on the earth, or anywhere else.
Christina Koch reflects the continuing force of our ancient heritage. Women who once were mostly expected to remain at home have empowered themselves to dream and become space pioneers. Koch’s story honors the inevitability of joyous and hopeful possibility.