Tag Archives: Christina Koch

ISS crew returns to Earth

Three crew members from ISS returned to Earth today in a Soyuz capsule, including American Christina Koch, who set a new longevity record of 328 for a woman.

Christina Koch launched to the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz MS-12 launch vehicle on 14 March 2019 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. At the time of launch, she was scheduled to perform a six-month mission, returning to Earth on the Soyuz MS-12 vehicle in early October 2019.

However, a variety of factors aligned to place NASA in the position of allowing one of its astronauts to remain aboard the International Space Station for close to one year. Christina was the logical choice given her background and EVA/spacewalk training. The decision, announced just one month after she began living and working aboard the Station for a few months, meant Christina would become the world-wide record holder for longest continuous time in space by a woman.

In fact, with a landing Thursday, Christina will have been in space 328 days, just 12 days shy of fellow NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s record for single-longest continuous time in space by a NASA astronaut at 340 days.

The overall longevity record still belongs to Russian Valeri Polyakov, at 438 days in 1994-1995.

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NASA announces ISS manned launch schedule through February 2020

In announcing its planned ISS manned launch schedule through February 2020, NASA revealed a schedule that calls for one female astronaut to spend almost eleven months in orbit, a new record, but no planned commercial manned launches during that period.

The planned record-setting mission would have Christina Koch spend 328 days in space.

Koch, who arrived at the space station March 14, and now is scheduled to remain in orbit until February 2020, will set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, eclipsing the record of 288 days set by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in 2016-17. She will be part of three expeditions – 59, 60 and 61 – during her current first spaceflight. Her mission is planned to be just shy of the longest single spaceflight by a NASA astronaut – 340 days, set by former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly during his one-year mission in 2015-16.

Part of the reason that NASA will do this is to gather more data on the long-term effects of weightlessness. Much of this research is repeating and confirming what the Russians already did on Mir more than two decades ago, but with today’s more sophisticated knowledge. It is also exactly what we should be doing on ISS, from the beginning. That NASA has only started to do it now, two decades after ISS’s launch, is somewhat frustrating.

NASA is also extended Koch’s stay to give itself breathing room should the first manned flights of its commercial manned capsules, Dragon from SpaceX and Starliner from Boeing, get delayed. This schedule does not include manned missions from either, but that only illustrates the difference between NASA’s operational and test schedules. I expect that the first manned Dragon flight will occur in 2019, and that SpaceX will be able to begin manned operations before Koch returns.

Boeing is farther behind. It is unclear right now when it will do its first manned launch.

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