NC astronaut breaks record for longest single spaceflight by a woman
Posted December 28, 2019 12:46 p.m. EST
NASA astronaut Christina Koch set a spaceflight record on Saturday for the longest continuous stay in space by a woman. She surpassed the 288 days NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson spent aboard the International Space Station in 2017. Koch is scheduled to return to Earth on Feb. 6, extending that record to 328 days.
Koch grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and attended the North Carolina School of Science and Math. She then studied electrical engineering and physics at North Carolina State University, earning two bachelor of science degrees and a masters degree.
Her experience after college was as varied as the science she conducts every day aboard the space station, ranging from design of science instruments for robotic spacecraft to research in harsh environments such as Greenland and Antarctica.
Not only did Koch conduct research for three years at the South Pole in temperatures that sometimes dropped below -110 Fahrenheit, she was part of the firefighting and search and rescue teams there. Her experience at the extremes made her an ideal candidate for the extended mission.
But it’s a course she took at NCSU that she often points to the skills she learned handling ropes in a rock climbing course as being very helpful in her training for working outside the space station on spacewalks.
Koch isn’t there to set records though. NASA needs data.
With a focus on returning to the Moon by 2024, more data is needed on how the human body reacts to long duration spaceflight. Previous long stays, including Scott Kelly’s year-long assignment aboard the ISS, have been primarily by men. Recent astronaut corps are split between men and women, including UNC alumna Zena Cardman.