NASA astronaut Christina Koch has returned to Earth after successfully completing the longest-ever single spaceflight by a woman.
The 41-year-old American touched down in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan at around 9:12am (GMT) this morning, February 6, after a record-breaking 328 days in space.
The trip surpassed astronaut Peggy Whitson’s previous record of 288 days, and fell just 12 days short of the all-time US record set by Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days onboard the International Space Station.
Koch shared a picture of Earth taken before she returned to solid ground and spoke about what she’d miss from her trip, writing:
What will I miss? The exquisite beauty of both the planet Earth and this marvel that its amazing people created.
During her time onboard the International Space Station, Koch made history by taking part in the first all-female spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.
She completed a total of six spacewalks, including another two with Meir, and spent 42 hours and 15 minutes outside the station.
Speaking after her first spacewalk with Meir in October, Koch told NASA:
We caught each other’s eye and we knew that we were really honoured with this opportunity to inspire so many, and just hearing our voices talk to Mission Control, knowing two female voices had never been on the loops, solving those problems together outside – it was a really special feeling.
After touching down on Earth this morning, the astronaut described herself as being ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘happy’, BBC News reports.
Koch spent her time in space conducting a number of experiments and investigations, one of which was the Vertebral Strength investigation, which focused on developing countermeasures to bone and muscle loss caused by the lack of gravity.
The astronaut was also involved in the Kidney Cells investigation, another way of studying potential human health issues that could occur in space; the Microgravity Crystals investigation, where she crystallised a protein that is key for the growth of tumours and cancer; and multiple studies of plant biology.
Koch arrived at the space station on March 14, 2019 and was the first of her fellow astronauts to go through the hatch.
Speaking about the memorable moment, she commented:
That was the day that I have seared in my memory. Visions from when I first arrived here… I’m very privileged to have that as one of my favourite memories.
Hats off to Christina, what an incredible achievement.
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Topics: News, Astronaut, International Space Station, NASA, Space