NASA's Christina Koch is set to make history as she notches the longest single spaceflight by a woman, beating fellow astronaut Peggy Whitson's previous record.
The American space agency recently announced its upcoming schedule for its astronauts on the International Space Station. The assignments include Jessica Meir's first-ever spaceflight, Andrew Morgan's extended stay on the ISS, and Koch's record-setting stint in outer space.
Longest Single Spaceflight By A Woman
Koch joined NASA colleague Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin in their journey to the ISS in March. Unlike most other astronauts, she is slated to stay on the space station until February 2020, clocking in a total of 328 days.
The schedule will allow Koch to beat Whitson's record of 288 consecutive days in space, which still stands as the longest tenure by a woman in space as of the moment. Koch's stint will be just 12 days short of retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly's all-time record of 340 days.
NASA hopes that Koch's stay on the ISS will give its scientists more data on the potential health effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body.
Following Kelly's historic run, he provided NASA with samples of his blood and underwent several other analyses to find out how much his body had changed while he was on his nearly yearlong mission the space station. His health data was then compared with those of his twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, who had stayed on Earth throughout the duration of the experiment.
NASA found that long-term spaceflights can result in serious health effects, such as affecting people's cognition and damaging their DNA. The space agency expects to get more information on these adverse effects once Koch and Morgan finish their mission.
"Astronauts demonstrate amazing resilience and adaptability in response to long duration spaceflight exposure," explained Jennifer Fogarty, NASA's chief scientist of the Human Research Program at Johnson Space Center.
"This will enable successful exploration missions with healthy, performance-ready astronauts."
Fogarty said NASA hopes to build on what it has already gathered from previous spaceflights and combine them with information from future space missions.
Koch's extended stay on the ISS will provide the space agency will additional data for its Human Research Program, which could be used to support planned missions to the Moon and even to Mars.
Who Is Christina Koch?
Michigan-native Christina Koch started her career at NASA in 2013. She finished her astronaut candidate training in 2015.
She is a graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, located in Durham, North Carolina. She also went to North Carolina State University, where she earned her bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and physics and her master's degree in electrical engineering.
Koch's work experience includes serving as a developer of space science instruments, as well as a field engineer for remote scientific research.
She was part of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics, working as one of the team's electrical engineers. She contributed various scientific instruments used on missions to study astrophysics and cosmology.
From 2004 to 2007, she served as a research associate in the United States Antarctic Program. She spent a season at Palmer Station in Antarctica and a winter‐over season at the Amundsen‐Scott South Pole Station.
Koch is currently part of NASA's Expedition 59 and 60 crews, which launched to the ISS last month.