NASA astronaut Christina Koch struck a joyful note today after finishing up 328 days in space aboard the International Space Station, a stay that has gone into the history books as the longest spaceflight made by a woman.
- Koch and two crewmates, Russia’s Alexander Skvortsov and Italy’s Luca Parmitano, landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 3:12 p.m. today local time (1:12 a.m. PT) after descending from the station in their Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In accordance with tradition for returning long-term spacefliers, the three were carried from the craft for an initial round of medical checks.
- “I’m just so overwhelmed and happy right now,” Koch said after getting settled. Her stint on the station, which began last March, featured the first spacewalk by an all-woman team in October.
- Like NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s 340-day space stay in 2015-2016, Koch’s mission was meant to provide data about the effects of long-term space trips, in preparation for future extended missions to the moon and Mars. One of the studies, for example, focused on vertebral strength and potential injury risks. NASA is planning more long-term research missions, so there’s a good chance Koch’s record will be broken sooner rather than later.