NASA astronaut Christina Koch is all set to return to Earth on Thursday after leading the first all-female spacewalk in 2019 and logging 328 days on the International Space Station. Her mission on the observatory laboratory could yield key insights into deep space travel, International media reported.
The 41-year-old astronaut was scheduled to climb into a Russian Soyuz capsule docked at the ISS along with two other returning crew members. The capsule was scheduled to depart at 9:30 pm EST on Wednesday (0230 GMT on Thursday) and land on the desert steppe of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 4:12, am EST the next morning (0912 GMT on Thursday). Along with Koch, the parachuting capsule will carry European astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.
Koch’s mission on the International Space Station (ISS) extended to 328 days setting a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, the US space agency said. Koch, who arrived at the space station on March 14, 2019, eclipsed the record of 288 days set by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in 2016-17. She was also a part of three expeditions -- 59, 60 and 61 -- during her current first spaceflight, NASA said in a statement.
"Christina's extended mission will provide additional data for NASA's Human Research Program and continue to support future missions to the Moon and Mars," said Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist of the Human Research Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, US.
Koch along with another female astronaut Jessica Mier also created history as they ventured into space for a first of its kind, all-women spacewalk on October 18, 2019. They took the spacewalk outside the International Space Station to replace the battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). They spent seven hours in the vacuum of space as they replaced the failed power control unit of the International Space Station.
(with inputs from agencies)