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Christina Koch Completes 328-Day Mission on Space Station
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Christina Koch Completes 328-Day Mission on Space Station

By Charles Hall

At 4:12 a.m. EST on February 6, 2020, in a remote corner of Kazakhstan, Christina Koch completed her 328-day mission on the International Space Station and set a record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman.

Koch, a three-time graduate of NC State with bachelor’s degrees in physics and electrical engineering and a master’s in electrical engineering, conducted and supported more than 210 scientific investigations spanning Expeditions 59, 60, and 61. This included operating as the research subject volunteer to allow scientists the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight, as NASA prepares their plans to return to the Moon with the Artemis program.

Don’t think there’s just one way to accomplish your dreams or a set of boxes you have to check through life,” Koch told the graduates before floating upwards in the microgravity environment aboard ISS. “Live your life according to your interests and passions.

Christina Koch

NASA Astronaut

She also conducted research on Mizuna mustard greens, determining how the role of gravity and space can affect plant health and development, while simultaneously examining how growing plants affect human social dynamics—an important factor as NASA plans long-duration crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.

While in space, Koch orbited the Earth 5,248 times, traveling 139 million miles. While doing so, she performed six spacewalks, including the first (and second, and third) performed exclusively by women. Watch clips from NASA that show Koch’s most memorable moments from her record-breaking mission.

Live from the International Space Station

On Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, NASA astronaut and NC State alumna Christina Koch answered students’ questions in a live video downlink from the International Space Station.

Before Koch left Earth to serve as a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station on March 17, she excitedly talked about what she was looking forward to on her nearly year-long mission to space.

She thought she would enjoy the spacewalks and living in microgravity.

She thought she would enjoy conducting experiments on herself, her fellow astronauts and other research projects sent to on the station that orbits some 250 miles above the earth.

She thought she would find opportunities to gaze into space and take pictures of home — Koch grew up in Onslow County, North Carolina — during the limited free time NASA’s daily time-management app allowed her.

She looked forward to living her childhood dream.

The 100 Most Influential People of 2020

In October 2019, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exited the International Space Station and replaced a controller regulating the batteries that store the station’s solar power. But the two astronauts accomplished much more than fixing the space station. They completed the first all-female spacewalk, shifting who we see as strong, brave, competent, and who’s on the team pushing the boundaries of exploration.

“My bedroom wall in Jacksonville, North Carolina, was covered in posters of the space shuttle alongside ones of New Kids on the Block,” she said in an interview for Glamour magazine. “I had always set my sights on working with NASA.”

Despite her six years of training in the NASA astronaut program, however, those were just thoughts and dreams until she actually strapped herself into a Russian rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and blasted off into space.

Photo credit: NASA
Story with contributions from NC State University Communications