Christina Koch, NASA astronaut to return to Earth today after record 328 days in space

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Feb 06, 2020, 08.43 AM(IST) Edited By: Bharat Sharma

The International Space Station (ISS) crew member Christina Koch of the US Photograph:( Reuters )

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The leader of the first all-female spacewalk in 2019, Koch's mission could provide rich insight into deep-space travel

United States astronaut Christina Koch, is all set to return to Earth today after a record stay at the International Space Station.

The leader of the first all-female spacewalk in 2019, Koch's mission could provide rich insight into deep-space travel.

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Koch spent 328 days in the orbiting laboratory. The 41-year-old boarded a Russian Soyuz capsule and which was set to depart at 0230 GMT today.

If the plan works out well, the capsule will ''parachute to a safe landing on the desert steppe of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan'', Reuters reported. The touchdown is expected at 0912 GMT today with the aircraft carrying Koch, European astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. 

This NASA photo released on February 4, 20202 shows NASA astronaut Christina Koch during a spacewalk on January 15, 2020 | AFP

The record for the longest continuous stay in space by a woman was previously held by NASA's Peggy Whitson.

In October 2019, Koch achieved a gender milestone during a spacewalk, which was undertaken with a fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir. This was the first time two women stepped out of the space station at the same time.

In March 2019, NASA attempted an all-female spacewalk which was later called off because one of the astronauts' medium-sized spacesuits was wrongly configured. This inspired gender-heavy rhetoric within the space community.

This year, astronauts on the space station are set to celebrate the 20th anniversary in low-Earth orbit. The Station has held 227 maintenance spacewalks, with almost two dozen female astronauts participating in the process. Koch and Meir conducted two more spacewalks together in January.

This NASA image shows the International Space Station, a search light, and the Moon in this long exposure photograph | AFP

According to NASA, Koch's mission would provide insight into the weightlessness of gravity. Additionally, it could also help the space organisation understand how space radiation affects the female body on long-duration spaceflights.

As NASA plans to build a permanent space station on the moon's surface within the next decade, the data from Koch's mission could prove to be immensely useful.

Scott Kelly, a US astronaut spent 340 days in orbit starting 2015. From Kelly's time in space, NASA learned that spaceflights cause the thickening of the carotid artery and retina, changes in gene expression and slight cognitive impairments for men.

Koch's mission began in March last year and was extended up to April, stretching the duration from six months to almost a year.

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(With inputs from Reuters)