Christina Koch, the NASA astronaut who holds the distinction of spending the longest span of days in space for a female astronaut, landed back on Earth earlier today. Koch returned aboard the Russian space shuttle Soyuz along with astronaut Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos, and touched down on Earth at 2:42PM IST (4:12AM ET) in Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Her record-setting stay in space made her the second longest resident of the International Space Station, just 12 days short of fellow NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days in space.
Koch also holds the distinction of being one half of the first all-female spacewalk in history, which spanned over six hours and included another NASA astronaut and Koch's fellow ISS resident, Jessica Meir. Koch also conducted five more spacewalks during her almost one-year-long stay in space, with her total spacewalk time clocking 42 hours and 15 minutes. Koch's contribution will forever be remembered as an instrumental part of mankind's space research endeavours, as scientists and researchers continue trying to learn the effects of long term spaceflight on the human mind and body.
During her stay, Koch contributed in multiple experiments, repair projects on the ISS and scientific studies. The numerous contributions of Koch include a vertebral strength investigation that aims to understand the maximum force that astronauts can endure during the harsh take-off procedure. She also contributed to the kidney cells experiment that aims to understand better ways to treat human health issues in space, such as kidney stones and osteoporosis. She also worked on growing microgravity crystals in space, which is yet another landmark scientific study that can help find effective cancer treatments. She also helped install a BioFabrication facility aboard the ISS, which can print human-like tissues in space and provide us with a way to make organ transplants outside of Earth.
Koch also conducted the famous study of observing how plants grow in space. One of the highlights of her stay including growing and tasting fresh Mizuna mustard greens at the ISS — an incredible feat considering they were grown in space. Koch was also among those using the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments Chamber, which was designed to understand how fire reacts in space, which in turn will be crucial in containing accidental space fires. Koch's safe return back to Earth, and her myriad contributions to science and space research, will open up many horizons for astronauts, researchers and scientists in the years to come. With her return, Koch will be looking forward to enjoying the feeling of normal life back on Earth, as she has spoken out about before.