When Christina Koch hopped aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery last year, it seemed like a pretty big deal for a single woman who had never been in space before. Only six women — two of them Russians — had joined the crew of Discovery’s final flight, so Koch was the first American woman to ever even have the chance. According to The New York Times, she was briefly worried that it would be a lonely experience:
“She was considering looking for shelter from the pressures of being a woman in space on her own,” her husband, Jeff Block, wrote in the essay, which was published on Space.com.
As The New York Times previously reported, on her first trip to the International Space Station in 2015, a Canadian woman, Julie Payette, became the first Canadian woman to ever fly in space.
“She had thought, ‘No way I can do this, it’s just not going to happen,’” said the astronaut’s mother, Cassie Payette, of her daughter’s experience. “It was very emotional for her, and for me.”
For some reason, at the time, all the media attention focused on Koch and her husband rather than Payette — a point Korkmaz had made in her Space.com essay, and in an interview with The Guardian.
“You have to be careful with anyone trying to talk about that topic, because it’s really uncharted waters,” Korkmaz said. “It’s so hard to tell which way the winds are blowing. You can find out if you want to know, but you just have to just hang in there and be sure you know and trust that everything’s okay.”
The New York Times added in a separate story that even Koch’s fellow astronauts told her “it was weird” to be married to an astronaut and to bring along her husband on her mission. A friend of hers said that, while Koch found out of her husband’s connection to the U.S. Astronaut Office, they “were careful to avoid public association because of the macho atmosphere of the astronaut corps.”
Despite the negativity, Koch couldn’t help but pay tribute to her husband as she was getting ready to leave for space, as she told The Guardian. “If I ask for a stiff drink on a lonely night in space, Jeff might say no. He might get a headache or need something to read, but he’s going to look after me when I’m gone,” she said. “He is an astronaut himself, too, and my backup in a sense.”
As for her mission, there’s been no word yet on when she’ll return to Earth.