STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS & USED WITH PERMISSION
Astronaut Christina Koch, launched to the Worldwide Area Station in March, marks her 289th day in area Saturday, breaking retired astronaut Peggy Whitson’s world file for the longest single spaceflight by a feminine.
Alongside the way in which, Koch has participated in 4 spacewalks, becoming a member of astronaut Jessica Meir for historical past’s first all-female tour in October. She plans to enterprise again exterior twice extra in January, once more teaming up with Meir, to finish set up of latest photo voltaic array batteries.
When Koch returns to Earth Feb. 6, her time in area will stand at 328 days, simply 12 shy of retired astronaut Mark Kelly’s U.S. single-flight file, set in 2016. The all-time file — 438 days — was set by cosmonaut Valery Polyakov in 1995. Whitson nonetheless holds the U.S. file for whole time in area — almost 666 days — over 5 flights.
“Information are made to be damaged,” Whitson tweeted Saturday. “It’s a signal of progress! Congrats @Astro_Christina”
“It’s an enormous honor,” Koch mentioned early Friday in an interview with “CBS This Morning.” “Peggy is a heroine of mine who’s additionally been sort sufficient to mentor me by the years. … it’s not a lot what number of days you’re up right here, however what you do with every of these days. That jogs my memory to convey my finest each single day.”
Koch holds a grasp’s in electrical engineering, is a veteran of a number of analysis excursions in Antarctica and Greenland and helped design devices on the Goddard Area Flight Heart for NASA science probes in orbit round Earth and Jupiter. She and Meir have been chosen for NASA’s astronaut corps in 2013, becoming a member of a category made up of 4 males and 4 ladies.
“It’s an exquisite time for human spaceflight as a result of I believe we lastly acknowledge that it’s not value going except we go collectively, that it’s vital to not flip away any modern thought, that everybody has a job and everybody has a spot on the desk as we transfer ahead,” Koch mentioned.
“If we’re going to go for all humanity and to help humanity’s love for exploration, then we’ve to do it with all humanity. And I believe we’re seeing that as our plans unfold for going again to the moon, seeing the primary girl stroll on the moon in 2024, and simply recognizing that we’ve to go collectively if we’re going to go, and we’re going to do it proper.”
Koch grew to become the 14th girl to stroll in area final March 29 when she and Nick Hague labored to put in a second set of photo voltaic array batteries. She initially was anticipated to enterprise exterior with astronaut Anne McClain for the primary all-female spacewalk, however Hague took McClain’s place due to a spacesuit sizing challenge.
The all-female spacewalk lastly occurred on Oct. 18 when Koch and Meir, the 15th girl stroll in area, ventured exterior to switch a defective battery charge-discharge unit. It was the primary EVA by two ladies within the 54 years for the reason that late Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov carried out historical past’s first spacewalk in 1965.
Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya grew to become the primary girl to stroll in area throughout an tour with a male cosmonaut in 1984. NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan adopted swimsuit later that yr, becoming a member of astronaut David Leestma for a shuttle spacewalk.
“My class was … the primary class that’s half feminine and half male, and we have been by no means held to any completely different requirements or expectations,” Koch instructed “CBS This Morning.” “Highlighting the truth that it was the primary all-female EVA, spacewalk, is vital as a result of seeing these milestones be damaged kind of tells individuals the place we’re at and the place we expect that the significance lies.
“I believe it’s inspiring as a result of future area explorers do have to see folks that remind them of themselves to form of convey that inspiration residence. I do know that was definitely true for me and my background. So to have the chance to do this for future area explorers is an actual honor.”
Requested about her most memorable moments in area, Koch mentioned she loved wanting down on Michigan and North Carolina the place she grew up, “however I’d say probably the most awe-inspiring factor that I’ve ever seen is the northern lights or southern lights from above on a planetary scale.”
“I’ve had the chance working in Antarctica and the Arctic to see them from beneath and the gorgeous, shimmering lights taking on the entire sky,” she mentioned. “However to look down on the Earth and see the whole form of the aurora as they kind close to the poles was really a tremendous sight and simply actually took my breath away.”
Koch mentioned she hopes setting a brand new single-flight endurance file will function a milestone to inspire others whereas pushing the boundaries of science as a result of “that’s vital for our future exploration … going to Mars and likewise returning to the moon and going there to remain.”
“However general, I’d need to say that my primary hope for this milestone is that the file is exceeded once more as quickly as doable,” she mentioned. “As a result of that implies that we’re persevering with to push the boundaries.”