Former US National Track Champion Christina Birch left professional cycling behind on her way to space, to play a coveted role as an astronaut with NASA.
The 35-year-old won the national singles stalking title in 2016 and 2017, and represented the USA at the World Championships and Pan American Games, winning two gold medals.
She used to race cyclo-cross, as well as being a prominent gravel racer in recent years, and created the Gravelnauts Collegiate. However, cycling will now take a back seat after announcing her acceptance into her first NASA class in four years, landing one of 10 points out of a field of 12,000 applicants.
“Today we welcome 10 new explorers, and 10 members of the Artemis generation, NASA’s 2021 astronaut class. Each nominee has the “right things,” but together they represent our country’s credo: E pluribus unum – among many, one.”
Birch has an academic background, having graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, biochemistry, and molecular biophysics, before completing his Ph.D. in biological engineering. She then took on teaching roles in California before deciding to go full-time with cycling to try and make the 2020 Olympics, earning a place on the longlist but not the trip to Tokyo.
She will begin her new career in January and will begin with two years of initial training, after which she can be assigned missions in deep space and to the moon.
“You see, from my amazing colleagues sitting here next to me, there really isn’t a single path to becoming an astronaut candidate at NASA. And you know, you might think my path as a bioengineer and cyclist has strayed a little further out there, but all those skills that I really gained from those experiences She’s the one who helped me get here,” Birch said at the new reception.
“I think my advice would be to find something you’re really interested in, really curious about, excited about, and explore deeply. And I think if you’re trying to do the little things every day well, they’ll add up to something really big, and it might be sitting here one day as a NASA astronaut candidate “.
Birch’s partner is fellow track racer Ashton Lampe, who revealed that they received news of the NASA recall on October 22, during World Championship Track Where he won the title of world singles pursuit.
On October 22, between the IP rounds of the World Championships in Roubaix, I sat in a hotel room eating a baguette. On the other side of the world, [Christina] I got a phone call, asking if she wanted to become a NASA astronaut, and she called me to get involved. “We were totally blown away,” Lambie wrote on social media on Monday.
“What do you think of the World Championships when your partner goes to space? Sitting on the stairs in my rainbow jersey, we talked about the biggest day in our little family’s history so far. So, we moved to Houston, and we had to keep it pretty quiet, because the official announcement didn’t not until today.
“So I can now say that this guy I love so much is going to start training at Johnson Space Center, and we’ve moved to Texas, and [she] Wonderful. You can say we’re excited about that, and can’t wait to share more about it all.”