By Marie DeFreitas
NASA astronaut Christina Koch just broke the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman. She is just over the 288 day mark that NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson set ni 2016-17.
It will be about another six weeks before Koch returns to Earth, as reported by the ISS (International Space Station.)
When she returns in February 2020, the Expedition 61 Flight Engineer will have spent over 300 days in space. Koch made history earlier this year with her stay aboard the orbital laboratory. She was a part of the first all-female spacewalk in October.
Koch arrived at the space station on March 14, and was originally expected to be on a routine six-month mission. However, NASA later extended her stay. This was partly done to gather more data about the effects of long-term spaceflight.
Now Koch’s mission is planned to be just short the longest spaceflight by a NASA astronaut, which was 340 days. This record was set by former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly during his year long mission in 2015-16. The world record for the longest time on a single mission is held by cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov. He spend 438 consecutive days aboard the former Mir Space Station in the mid-1990s, according to the Space website.
Koch said at a press interview on Thursday, “Having the opportunity to be up here for so long is truly an honour,” she continued. “Peggy is a heroine of mine and has also been kind enough to mentor me through the years, so it is a reminder to give back and to mentor when I get back,” according to the The Economic Times.
“I hope that breaking the record is good for outreach and also for inspiration,” Koch said in an interview with CNN from aboard the ISS. “Those things can kind of be scary a little bit, but they usually mean that you’re interested. And if it’s just outside what you think is attainable for you and you reach it, it really pays off dividends in more ways than one,” she continued. “It can be rewarding for you personally, and it usually means that you’re giving something back to the world in the maximum way possible.”
Koch explained the importance of the mission in terms of the data that is being collected. “It’s a wonderful thing for science,” she said. “We see another aspect of how the human body is affected by microgravity for the long term, and that’s really important for our future spaceflight plan going forward to the moon and to Mars.”
The 40-year-old electrical engineer from Montana expressed her hopes for NASA concerning the record. “You know, overall though, I have to say, my biggest hope for the record is that it’s exceeded as soon as possible again,” she said. “And that’s because it would mean that we are continuing to push those boundaries.”