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Governor Cooper Joins NASA Astronaut Christina Koch and NC A&T Chancellor Harold Martin to Highlight North Carolina’s Strong STEM Public Education Programs

Governor Roy Cooper joined NASA Astronaut Christina Koch and Chancellor Harold Martin at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to highlight North Carolina’s strong STEM public education programs and discuss how public education has supported their careers. Students from the award-winning NC A&T rocketry team and several departments including physics, chemistry, biology and others were in attendance to hear from Koch, the Governor and Chancellor Martin. Following the discussion, the group visited the drone bay and viewed demonstrations from the rocketry and drone teams.

“North Carolina’s strong public schools are setting our students up for success and encouraging them to shoot for the stars to reach their full potential,” said Governor Cooper. “We must invest in our public schools so they have the resources they need to prepare future astronauts, doctors and leaders. Astronaut Koch is a wonderful example of just how far you can go with a North Carolina public education.”

“My time in North Carolina sparked my passion for exploration and helped me set my own journey to becoming an astronaut,” said NASA Astronaut Christina Koch. “A strong educational and extracurricular foundation is key to ensuring we have the right set of skills to accomplish big things in space and on Earth in the future.”

“We’re delighted to join with NASA Astronaut Christina Koch and Gov. Roy Cooper in drawing student attention to the exciting career possibilities in America’s space program,” said North Carolina A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “Our long history with NASA and space exploration ranges from alumnus and astronaut Ronald McNair’s service in the space shuttle program to three current A&T students who were named this year as Astronaut Scholars. We firmly believe that North Carolina A&T will figure prominently in America’s space program and look forward to our students being even more inspired to apply to the space agency by today’s visit.”

At 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.

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