American Astronaut Koch Returns to Earth after Record-Setting Spaceflight

    06 February 2020

    A capsule carrying a crew of three from the International Space Station returned to Earth Thursday. They came down safely in Kazakhstan.

    One of the three was Christina Koch of the United States. She spent a total of 328 days in space. That broke the record for the longest continuous stay in space by a woman. The old record was set by Peggy Whitson, another American astronaut.

    Christina Koch gives a thumbs-up signal as she leaves the Soyuz capsule in which she returned on Feb. 6, 2020.
    Christina Koch gives a thumbs-up signal as she leaves the Soyuz capsule in which she returned on Feb. 6, 2020.

    During her time on the International Space Station, Koch traveled over 223 million kilometers. That is how far you would travel if you went to the moon and back 291 times.

    Historic space walk by two women

    Koch's mission in space began March 14, 2019. Since then, she has left the space station and completed "spacewalks" six times.

    Koch made history on October 18 by working outside the space station with another female astronaut, Jessica Meir. It was the first walk in space by an all-female team. One reason this has not happened before is that the space station had only one spacesuit that was the right size for a woman.

    Peggy Whitson held the record for the longest space flight by a woman until Koch broke it in December. Whitson still holds the record for the longest time in space for a woman over her entire career: 589 days. Scott Kelly holds the record for the longest time in space for any U.S. astronaut, 340 days.

    Landing in Kazakhstan

    The Russian space agency Roscosmos released images of the capsule landing on a snow-covered field in Kazakhstan.

    Koch returned to Earth with Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. All three were said to be in good spirits after the landing. Parmitano and Skvortsov spent 201 days in space.

    Next stops: the moon and Mars

    The U.S. space agency NASA says Koch's mission will provide researchers with the chance to see the effects of a long-duration spaceflight on a woman. It is important information because NASA plans to return to the moon under the Artemis program. The space agency is also preparing for the human exploration of the planet Mars.

    Koch grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She now lives with her husband Bob near the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, Texas.

    She told The Associated Press last month that taking part in the first all-female spacewalk was the highlight of her space station visit.

    I'm Jill Robbins.

    Jill Robbins wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Her story was based on reports from The Associated Press and the Reuters news agency. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    capsule – n. a small part of a spacecraft that is separate from the rest of the spacecraft and that is where people live and work

    mission – n. a flight by an aircraft or spacecraft to perform a special operation

    duration – n. the time during which something lasts or exists

    highlight – n. something of special interest

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