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Video: NASA astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth after record-setting mission

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan stow biological research samples into a science freezer located inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. (NASA/TNS)

After 328 days in space — and 5,248 orbits around the Earth — NASA astronaut Christina Koch is safely back on Earth, having set a flurry of records while aboard the International Space Station.

She set a record for the longest space flight by a woman, The News & Observer reported. On Dec. 28, she hit the 289-day mark, breaking Peggy Whitson’s record.

She spent the second-most days in space for an American astronaut, with Scott Kelly surpassing her by only 12 days.

And on Oct. 18, she took part in the first all-woman spacewalk with fellow astronaut Jessica Meir. She told The Associated Press last month that the accomplishment was the highlight of her mission.

“We both drew a lot of inspiration from seeing people that were reflections of ourselves as we were growing up and developing our dreams to become astronauts,” Koch told The Associated Press from the space station. “So to recognize that maybe we could pay that forward and serve the same for those that are up and coming was just such a highlight.”

Koch, who turned 41 on Jan. 29, grew up in Jacksonville, a place that influenced her sense of adventure. Jacksonville, a military town, gave her a chance to meet people from all over the world, The News & Observer reported.

“No one told me I had a crazy dream,” Koch told The News & Observer in an interview from the International Space Station last July. “No one told me I couldn’t do it. And so that dream kept right on growing and growing.”

She has several ties to the Triangle, and people in those places have followed her adventures with pride.

She attended the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham.

In five years at N.C. State University, she earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and electrical engineering and a master’s in electrical engineering. She has conducted interviews on the Raleigh campus during her time in space and brought some Wolfpack memorabilia with her to the ISS.

On Nov. 6, former Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane proclaimed the day as “Astronaut Christina Koch Day,” The News & Observer reported.

“Thank you all for the recognition that I hope will foster inspiration for students throughout the Raleigh area and beyond,” Koch told the City Council in a video message.

Facts about Christina Koch’s time in space

Here’s a look at other facts about her voyage:

  • She left for space in March 2019, serving as a flight engineer for NASA expeditions 59, 60 and 61.
  • She participated in more than 210 science experiments and investigations, NASA reports. That includes research that could help bring astronauts back to the moon.
  • She returns having completed six spacewalks, CNN reports, with two more walks with Meir.
  • All told, she spent 42 hours and 15 minutes floating around outside the ISS, NASA reports.
  • The 5,248 orbits? That equals 139 million miles, NASA says, or 291 trips to the moon and back.
  • Her most valuable item on the ISS might be her spoon, she told NASA. “On orbit we eat with a spoon, one spoon. 328 days with the same spoon,” she said.

Where and when did Christina Koch land?

Koch and two of her International Space Station crewmates landed safely in Kazakhstan on Thursday.

The Soyuz capsule carrying Koch, along with station Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos’ Alexander Skvortsov, touched down southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 3:12 p.m. (0912 GMT).

Koch smiled and gave a thumbs-up as support crew helped her get out of the capsule and placed her in a chair for a quick post-flight check-up alongside her crewmates. Russian space officials said they were in good shape.

After preliminary medical evaluations, the crew will be flown by Russian helicopters to the city of Karaganda in Kazakhstan. Koch and Parmitano will then board a NASA plane bound for Cologne, Germany, where Parmitano will be greeted by European space officials before Koch proceeds home to Houston.

Koch will have plenty of adjustments back on Earth, from remembering how much things weigh to how to sleep without floating, she told NASA.

Then there are things people on Earth take for granted: smells, showering, doing laundry, wearing what we wants to wear and using silverware other than a spoon, she told NASA.

And nature, just feeling air on your skin.

“Oh, how I miss the wind on my face, the feeling of raindrops, sand on my feet and the sound of the surf crashing on the Galveston beach,” she said, according to the NASA website. “We take daily sensory inputs for granted until they are absent. … I cannot wait to feel and hear Earth again.”


© 2020 The News & Observer