'An exciting time for spaceflight in America': NASA space station astronauts celebrate Independence Day

Two Americans are celebrating the Fourth of July 250 miles above Earth.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague are currently aboard the International Space Station, serving as flight engineers on the orbiting space lab’s Expedition 60.

“As we orbit our planet high above you, we want to take a moment and wish all Americans at home, and around the world, a very happy fourth of July,” said Koch, in a video posted to Twitter. “Through history, our flag has traveled with humans and robots to the farthest reaches of the solar system as American ingenuity has pushed the boundaries of what is possible through grit, determination and imagination.”

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“On this Independence Day, we’re now on the verge of American astronauts, engineers, scientists and commercial companies taking the next giant leap for humankind,” she said.

Koch, Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin arrived at the ISS aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on March 14, 2019.

Selected as a NASA astronaut in 2013, this mission marks Koch’s first spaceflight. She is slated to set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman with an expected total of 328 days in space, according to NASA.

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Nick Hague’s first attempt to reach the ISS ended in heart-pounding fashion in October 2018 when he and Ovchinin made a dramatic escape from a failed Soyuz rocket just minutes after its launch.

In the video posted to Twitter, the U.S. Air Force Colonel explained that this is an exciting time for the U.S. space program.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time for spaceflight in America, from the completion of the first flight in the Commercial Crew Program to the unveiling of the bold plan to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024, this is a unique moment in history in which we can cast our eyes to the sky and heavens and be proud to be an American,” he said.

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The effort to land a man and a woman on the Moon is part of NASA’s Artemis program. The astronauts will also be first humans to set foot on the Moon’s South Pole.

July 20, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Only 12 men, all Americans, have walked on the Moon.

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NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers