Record-breaking US astronaut set to return to Earth

Thu, 2020-02-06 06:03

ALMATY, Kazakhstan: US astronaut Christina Koch is set to return
to Earth Thursday having shattered the spaceflight record for
female astronauts by spending almost a year aboard the
International Space Station.
Koch of NASA is expected to touch down in the Kazakh steppes with
colleagues Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and
Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency at 0912 GMT after
328 days in space.
The 41-year-old Michigan-born engineer by training surpassed the
previous record set for a single spaceflight by a woman — 289
days, held by NASA veteran Peggy Whitson — on December 28,
2019.
Koch had already made history by that point after she became one
half of the first-ever all-woman spacewalk along with NASA
counterpart Jessica Meir in October.
Koch told NBC on Tuesday that she would “miss microgravity” as
she answered questions from journalists ahead of her
three-and-a-half hour journey back to Earth.
“It’s really fun to be in a place where you can just bounce
around between the ceiling and the floor whenever you want,” she
said, smiling as she twisted her body around the ISS.

Koch called three-time flyer Whitson “a heroine of mine” and
a “mentor” in the space program after she surpassed the
59-year-old’s record.
She also spoke of her desire to “inspire the next generation of
explorers.”
Koch’s return comes after an advert produced by the skincare
brand Olay ran during an intermission in the American football
Super Bowl with a call to “make space for women.”
The advert featured NASA astronaut Nicole Stott and saw the company
promise to donate up to $500,000 to the nonprofit Women Who Code,
which works with young women seeking careers in tech and scientific
fields.
This year’s Super Bowl was watched by over 100 million people
while advert space costs more than $5 million for a 30-second
commercial.
The first woman in space was Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova
whose spaceflight in 1963 is still the only solo mission carried
out by a woman.
But the cosmonauts Russia has sent to the ISS since expeditions
began in 2000 have all been men with the exception of Yelena
Serova’s launch in 2014.
Both Tereshkova and Serova are now lawmakers in the Russian
parliament, where they represent the ruling United Russia
party.
Unlike Koch, whose stay aboard the ISS was extended, Parmitano and
Skvortsov are rounding off regular six-month missions.
Parmitano handed over command of the ISS to Roscosmos’ Oleg
Skripochka on Tuesday.
The 43-year-old Italian posted regular shots of the Earth while
aboard, highlighting the plight of the Amazon rainforest and
poetically describing the Alps as “like a spinal column, never
bending to time.”
Four male cosmonauts have spent a year or longer in space as part
of a single mission with Valery Polyakov’s 437 days the overall
record.
Scott Kelly holds the record for a NASA astronaut, posting 340 days
at the ISS before he returned home in 2016.
 

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Record-breaking US astronaut set to return to Earth