By Ellen Whitcutt | @ellenwhitcutt
Sub-edited by Jasmine Wing | @jasminenatashaw
Christina Koch has broken the record for the single longest period in space by a female astronaut, totalling 328 consecutive days on board the International Space Station (ISS),. The American NASA astronaut and electrical engineer beat fellow American, Peggy Whitson, of 289 days. However, Whitson still holds the record for the overall longest time spent in space by a woman, as she has participated in three spaceflights.
According to NASA, by the time Koch returned to Earth on the 6th February 2020, she had completed 5,248 orbits of the Earth and traveled 139 million miles. Koch’s spaceflight consisted of conducting research to help NASA better prepare for its return to the Moon and future exploration of Mars. Her time on board the ISS also saw other milestones achieved. On the 18th October 2019, Koch, alongside Dr Jessica Meir, completed the first ever all female space walk.
Two days prior to her return, Koch participated in a live link up between the ISS and various media outlets. She recognised that her accomplishment is about honoring the people who paved the way for her today. During her interview, Koch stated that “nothing could make me more proud to be able to follow in the footsteps of my heros…and hopefully inspire the next generation of explorers.”
Looking forward, Koch’s impressive record holds greater significance for the future of space exploration. She took part in 210 investigations to further understand the effects of long term spaceflight for humans, and women in particular,including how the body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, stress and radiation.
Koch has become a potential candidate for NASA’s aim to land the first woman on the Moon. Either way, her record breaking spaceflight is set to change the future of female space exploration.