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NASA Astronaut Christina Koch Breaks Records; Finally Returning To Earth After A Year
NASA has many astronaut-led missions lined up, including the Artemis mission to explore the Moon and another mission heading to Mars. For now, three NASA astronauts will be heading back to the Earth from the International Space Station, including Christina Koch, who broke all records as the first female astronaut to spend a year in space.
NASA Astronaut Christina Koch set the record for the longest continuous spaceflight by a woman. She was also part of the record-breaking first all-female spacewalk in history. After a year at ISS, she's finally heading home along with two other astronauts, Luca Parmitano from the European Space Agency and Russian astronaut Aleksandr Skvortsov.
Koch has been part of numerous space science experiments, including the study of how fire behaves in microgravity. She was also part of the research program that studied how protein crystals grow in space and so on. Moreover, Koch is a pivotal part of the study to understand how the human body changes during a long stay in space.
To be precise, Koch has spent 328 days in space, just shy of the 340 days NASA astronaut Scott Kelly spent on the ISS for his one-year mission. Data gathered from both these astronauts is crucial in understanding human body changes, especially with the upcoming mission to Mars.
While all of these studies are unique and important, Koch's most memorable achievements were the three spacewalks she performed with fellow crew member Jessica Meir. Originally, Koch was scheduled to perform the first all-female spacewalk, but it was replanned to operate with her male colleague due to limitations in space suit sizes.
But both Koch and Meir broke all records when they performed the first all-female spacewalk in October and once again in January.
Heading Back Home
The trio will fly back to the Earth aboard the Russian Soyuz capsule docked to the station to make the three-hour journey back home. Around 12:50 AM ET, they're scheduled to undock from the ISS and drift farther away from the orbiting lab. Once far enough, the Soyuz spaceship will ignite its main engine and fly the vehicle out of orbit.
The schedule is expected to bring the Soyuz capsule to touch down in Kazakhstan at 4:12 AM ET. Once the spaceship descents through the Earth's atmosphere, the parachutes will be deployed for the landing.
With three astronauts heading home, ISS will be down to just three crew members - NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. They will be joined by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin in April.