It is a productive year for NASA astronaut and physicist Christina Koch as she set the record for having the longest single spaceflight by a woman at the International Space Station. This feat is accomplished by the 40-year-old North Carolina native two months after the first all-female spacewalk she shared with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.
Prior to Koch's record-breaking spacewalk, Peggy Whitson, another NASA astronaut, completed a 288-day spacewalk and made her record as the first woman to have the longest spaceflight in 2016-2017. Now, Christina Koch has two months left in her 328-day mission to the International Space Station before returning to Earth.
Her record in spacewalk falls a bit short in defeating the longest spaceflight conducted by a NASA astronaut (which was done by Scott Kelly in 2015-2016 and lasted for 340 days). In a press release issued by NASA, Koch narrates that it has been a dream come true for her. "It feels awesome. It's truly a dream come true to know that I can continue to work on the program that I valued so highly my whole life." According to her, it is an honor for her to be sent out on a mission to the ISS and to continue doing it for an extended amount of time.
Koch arrived at the ISS last March and will remain at it until February 2020. NASA wants to harvest more data about the effects of long-duration human spaceflight and by having Koch and other astronauts stay at the ISS for a long period of time, they will be able to complete the data on astronaut health.
CHRISTINA KOCH'S JOURNEY TO THE ISS
Christina Koch grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina and earned her degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics at North Carolina State University. Before becoming an astronaut, Christina's expertise is in space science instrument development and remote scientific field engineering. Her service for the agency began when she started working at the Laboratory for High-Energy Astrophysics at the Goddard Space Flight Center as an electrical engineer contributing to the development of scientific instruments and several missions.
Koch has enough experience in working in remote locations before becoming an astronaut. For instance, she worked as a research associate for the United States Antarctic Program from 2004 to 2007 at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and the Palmer Station. By 2012, she served as a field engineer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) specifically at the Global Monitoring Division Baseline Observatory in Alaska and as station chief at American Samoa Observatory.
By 2013, she was among the eight selected members of the 21st astronaut class of the agency. Koch completed her astronaut candidate training by 2015 which included scientific and technical briefings, spacewalks, robotics, instruction on the systems of the ISS, psychological training, T-38 flight training, and water and wilderness survival training. Her first space flight mission started last year and became a part of the historical all-female spacewalk by early October with fellow NASA astronaut (and Koch's best friend) Jessica Meir.