Astronaut Christina H. Koch Sets Record for Longest Single Spaceflight by a Women


NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is helped out of the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft just minutes after she, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, landed their Soyuz MS-13 capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Koch returned to Earth after logging 328 days in space — the longest spaceflight in history by a woman — as a member of Expeditions 59-60-61 on the International Space Station. Skvortsov and Parmitano returned after 201 days in space where they served as Expedition 60-61 crew members onboard the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

In the early hours of the morning on February 6, the Soyuz M-13 spacecraft shot through the atmosphere at a shocking 17,500 mph making a safe landing near the remote town of Zhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
The capsule, which had left the International Space Station only hours before, held three astronauts: Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, and a third passenger that had now achieved a unique distinction: longest single spaceflight by a woman.
Her name is Christina Koch. She spent a total of 328 days representing NASA on the International Space Station. This is truly an amazing feat, but it wouldn’t have even been possible if not for the decades of hard work she put into her career.
Born on January 29, 1979, in Grand Rapids, Michigan to parents Barbara Johnson and Dr. Ronald Hammock, Koch had always dreamed of becoming an astronaut. In the first grade, she even drew a picture of herself standing on the moon. She graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 2001, a Bachelor of Science in Physics in 2002, and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering in 2002. Her career began after she got a job working as an electrical engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
She spent the next several years working a wide range of jobs for NASA that took her everywhere from Greenland to Samoa to Antarctica. In 2013, she was selected as one of the eight members of the 21st NASA Astronaut Class. Training to become an astronaut included instruction in ISS systems, spacewalks, robotics, water and wilderness survival, and many other things. It took about three years after she completed astronaut candidate training in 2015 for her to be selected for her first space flight. She was then appointed the position as flight engineer for Expeditions 59, 60, and 61 on the International Space Station where she was assigned to live for a total of 328 days from March 14, 2019 to February 6, 2020.
Koch describes her first moments on the ISS to be some of her most memorable. After a long six hour journey on the Soyuz spacecraft, Koch and two other astronauts opened the hatch to find friends and colleagues waiting for them. Seeing the real space station for the first time after so many years of training was also something she has “seared in her memory.”
While on the ISS, Koch and other astronauts contributed to more than 210 experiments in the areas of biology, earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development, many of which could only be done outside the influence of the earth’s atmosphere. One of the experiments she assisted in was testing 3D biological printers to print organ-like tissues in microgravity.
Koch also participated in several spacewalks during her days on the ISS, which totaled 42 hours and 15 minutes in space. On March 29, 2019, she went on her first spacewalk with Nick Hauge. When looking out at the earth, she said, “At that moment, I just felt like everything I had ever worked for, everything I had ever loved, everything I had ever wanted to contribute to my entire life was just culminating in that moment.” Koch also got to be a part of the first three all female spacewalks. The first one was on October 18, 2019 with NASA astronaut Jessica Mier.
NASA’s next main project is the Artemis Program, which plans to put the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. Christina Koch could continue to set records by being the woman chosen for this position. If so, the drawing she made of her standing on the moon when she was in first grade could very well become a reality. Based on her past successes, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this happened.