On Thursday morning NASA astronaut Christina Koch returned to Earth, marking the end of her 328 day-long journey in space. Koch follows in the footsteps of Peggy Whitson, who previously held the record of 288 days for the longest single spaceflight by a woman.
During her time in space, Koch achieved yet another milestone for women in science: she and her colleague Jessica Meir completed the first-ever all-female spacewalk in October. The pair spent seven hours outside of the International Space Station replacing a failed unit.
Reflecting on their achievement, Koch commented, “We’re in sort of a new chapter now, where we’ve crossed that line, and now two women have done it. And so hopefully it’ll become commonplace and it… [won’t be] a big deal down the road.”
Koch’s long-term spaceflight provides useful information about the effects of microgravity on human health to NASA in preparation for planned explorations of the moon and Mars.
Additionally, Koch and her colleagues conducted experiments yielding useful results due to their microgravity conditions. For example, they studied the crystallization of a protein that promotes cancerous growth to develop treatments that could target the protein. Furthermore, they conducted experiments that indicated potential for producing whole human organs in space, where capillaries form more easily.
CNN, 2/6/2020; NBC, 2/6/2020; BBC, 10/18/19