American astronaut Christina Koch, who led the first all-female spacewalk in 2019, has landed in Kazakhstan after a record stay on the International Space Station.
Her 328-day mission is expected to yield new insights into deep-space travel.
Koch, a North Carolina-born engineer who joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 2013, set the record for the longest stay in space by a woman.
Her mission will provide researchers valuable data on how weightlessness and space radiation affect the female body on long spaceflights.
“Women acclimate well to space, so I think this is a milestone that will be overtaken by women in the future and it’s what we aspire to,” said Lori Garver, NASA’s former deputy administrator.
#CongratsChristina on completing your first journey into space!
🚀 Longest single spaceflight in history by a woman
👩🚀 Second-longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut
🛰️ Seventh on the list of American space travelers for total time in space
— NASA (@NASA) February 6, 2020
The Soyuz MS-13 capsule touched down on the snowy Kazakh Steppe carrying Koch, 41, European astronaut Luca Parmitano of Italy and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.
They will be flown by search and recovery teams to the Karaganda region to begin their journey home.
“I’m just so overwhelmed and happy right now,” Koch said, sitting in a chair wrapped in blankets as she waited to be carried into a medical tent to restore her balance in gravity.
Koch also achieved a gender milestone in a spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir last October that marked the first time two women stepped out of the space station at the same time. They completed two more all-female spacewalks in January.
Koch’s 328 days in space eclipsed Peggy Whitson’s record for an American woman on a single spaceflight at 289 days.