JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Eastern North Carolina is shooting for the moon.

Christina Koch grew up in Jacksonville. She’s now one of the crew members for NASA’s latest Artemis II mission to the moon.

“I am excited that anyone is going on this mission,” Koch said in an exclusive interview Tuesday with WNCT. “We are taking humans back to the moon!”

Koch attended and graduated from White Oak High School in Jacksonville.

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“Growing up in Eastern North Carolina in Jacksonville, outside of the military base, I felt like I had a very diverse group of friends that really lent itself to how I view the world and how I love the fact that a diverse group brings all kinds of experiences to the table, different ways to innovate, different ways to think about that and really valuing that from the time that I was young,” she said.

RAW VIDEO: Christina Koch interview

After high school, Koch got a bachelor’s and master’s degree from N.C. State University.

“Going to college at N.C. State, I had so many opportunities and I jumped on everyone that I could,” Koch said.

On this latest mission to the moon, Koch is one of four on the team and the only woman.

“If we’re going to answer humanity’s call to explore, we should represent all of humanity,” she said. “To me, that is the most exciting thing about this mission. we know we are more successful if we take every single person’s contributions, every single person with an innovative spirit, talents and a dream is welcomed at this table.”

During the 10-day trip, they’ll circle the moon and gather information.

“We are going to test out every aspect of the Orion vehicle so that when they take it on Artemis III, they know that part already and they can focus on the next steps,” Koch said. “The whole idea is to eventually land on the moon, have a responsible, sustained presence there, take what we learn and go explore Mars.”

Koch said she hopes she’s inspiring others like her to reach for the moon and beyond.

“If I am inspiring people like the way I was inspired by my heroes, both from North Carolina and from the space heroes, that is an awesome feeling,” she said. “The most important thing is to tell the people around that you believe in them. I was lucky that I had people in North Carolina who told me that and that’s what I’m going to be focused on.”

The crew is set to take off sometime in 2024. Koch said they’ll start training in June, but until then, she’ll be spending time getting to know the crew better.