NASA astronaut Christina Koch has returned to Earth after shattering the record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman.
Koch returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft with fellow crewmates Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency. The trio departed from the International Space Station (ISS) at 05:50 UTC this morning (Jan. 6) for the short journey back to terra firma. A few hours later at 09:12 UTC, the spacecraft touched down safely under its single large parachute southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
Koch began her recording-breaking spaceflight blasting off from Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft on March 14, 2019. In total, Koch spent 328 days in space. This is the second-longest single spaceflight flown by a US astronaut and fifth-longest of all time.
During her time aboard the ISS, Koch completed 5,248 orbits of the Earth travelling a total of 223 million kilometres (139 million miles) or approximately the equivariant of 291 trips to the Moon and back. She was part of six spacewalks during her 11 months in space, including the first three all-female spacewalks in history.
According to a February 6 NASA press release, Koch’s record-breaking mission will help researchers understand the long terms effects of spaceflight on women. These insights will help the agency prepare for missions to the Moon and beyond.
“Koch’s extended mission will provide researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman as the agency plans to return humans to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for human exploration of Mars.”