NASA astronaut Christina Koch was scheduled to take part in the first all-female spacewalk alongside Anne McClain on March 29, but it was scrapped due to spacesuit availability. Instead, Koch conducted her spacewalk alongside Nick Hague.
Now she has her eye on a different record: the longest single spaceflight by a woman.
Koch arrived on the International Space Station on March 14 for her first spaceflight mission. She will remain on the station until February 2020, according to NASA’s new schedule.
Normally, astronauts stay on the station for six months.
Koch’s mission will surpass that of Peggy Whitson, who spent 288 consecutive days in space, and end up just shy of the longest single spaceflight by a NASA astronaut: 340 days, set by Scott Kelly.
Koch shared her excitement about the extended mission on Twitter. “One month down. Ten to go. Today the possibility has become reality: My mission is planned to be extended through a third Expedition onboard @Space_Station! Privileged to contribute my best every single day of it.”
NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, arriving on the space station on July 20, will also enjoy an extended mission and return in spring 2020.
This comes on the heels of last week’s announcement of the final results from NASA’s Twins Study, examining the effects of long-term spaceflight on humans. Kelly’s one-year mission in 2015 and 2016 provided invaluable insight about what the human body experiences in zero gravity. Last week, the agency said that more long-term missions would be planned to allow further study.
This helps NASA and its astronauts prepare for extended missions to the moon and, in the future, Mars.
“Astronauts demonstrate amazing resilience and adaptability in response to long duration spaceflight exposure,” said Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist of the Human Research Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “This will enable successful exploration missions with healthy, performance-ready astronauts. NASA is looking to build on what we have learned with additional astronauts in space for more than 250 days. Christina’s extended mission will provide additional data for NASA’s Human Research Program and continue to support future missions to the Moon and Mars.”