Record-setting astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth after 328 days

Record-setting astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth after 328 days in space

After 328 days in space, American astronaut Christina Koch returned to earth, setting the record for the longest stretch in space by a woman.

On Thursday last week, she returned in the Soyuz MS-13 capsule, along with two other astronauts, landing in the open grasslands of Kazakhstan. 

“I’m just so overwhelmed and happy right now,” Koch said as she was attended to by medical personnel before being escorted to a nearby medical facility to restore balance in gravity.

Koch spent 328 days on the International Space Station (ISS) performing a wide range of experiments including studying the effects of microgravity on Mizuna mustard greens (a mild-flavored Japanese mustard commonly grown for commercial salad mixes) bioprinting, combustion, and kidney diseases.

During her 11-month stay in space, Koch and her team orbited the Earth a total of 5,248 times and traveled 139 million miles. Koch took a total of six space walks. 

This was not Koch’s first time setting space history. She made history last October when, along with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, she stepped out of the space station at the same time. It was the first time two women had done so, and in January, they completed two more all-female spacewalks.

On Instagram, Koch wrote, “This journey has been everyone’s journey. Thank you to all involved in the success of our mission, and for giving me the opportunity to carry everyone’s dreams into space. I’m filled with gratitude to be back on the planet!”

NASA published an article detailing the number of adjustments Koch will now make as she transitions back into life on Earth.

These include weight and balance. On Earth, humans use their eyes and inner ear to maintain stability. In space, without gravity, the mind stops listening to the inner ear.  “I’ve been floating in a bag by myself for 327 nights,” Koch said. “Will I sleep on my stomach, my back, my side? Will the firmness of the mattress matter more-so than it ever has before?”

“Time on Earth has marched on without me,” she said. “I’ve missed anniversaries, birthdays, funerals, graduations, holidays. While I’ve tried to stay in touch with family and friends, the space station is not only physically isolating, but living on this orbiting lab is also an exclusive experience that I know I’ll spend a lifetime trying to explain.”

Koch continued, saying “What has changed with the passage of time? How long will it take to re-integrate into everyday life with my family and friends, to be an actual presence in their lives and not just a voice from space? What exciting surprises await?”

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