Christina Koch

SERGEI ILNITSKY/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

NASA's Christina Koch just made history by breaking the record for longest single spaceflight by a female astronaut.

Koch returned to Earth on Thursday. The Soyuz capsule carrying Koch, commander Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency left the International Space Station at 12:50 a.m. EST and landed in Kazakhstan at 3:12 p.m. local time. 

After touching down, Koch smiled and gave an ecstatic thumbs-up to the crowd. A support team then helped her out of the capsule and had her participate in a post-flight check-up. According to the Associated Press (via NBC News) Russian space officials said the crew was in good shape.

Koch spent 328 days in space. She launched Mar. 14, 2019 alongside fellow astronauts Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin and was a part of Expeditions 59, 60 and 61. This marked her first flight into space.

"Koch's extended mission will provide researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman as the agency plans to return humans to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for human exploration of Mars," NASA stated in a release on its website. 

In addition, the Expedition 61 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in the areas of biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

Koch also worked on several other NASA objectives.  

"Supporting NASA's goals for future human landings on the Moon, Koch completed 5,248 orbits of the Earth and a journey of 139 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 291 trips to the Moon and back," NASA stated in a release. "She conducted six spacewalks during 11 months on orbit, including the first three all-woman spacewalks, spending 42 hours and 15 minutes outside the station. She witnessed the arrival of a dozen visiting spacecraft and the departure of another dozen."

The record was previously held by NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who spent 289 days in space. Scott Kelly holds the record for longest single spaceflight overall. He spent 340 days in space.

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