On Wednesday evening, three astronauts headed back to mother Earth from the International Space Station, including one record-breaking astronaut who just finished nearly one year in space. Christina Koch, NASA’s astronaut is on her way back to Earth after establishing the record for the longest continuous spaceflight by a woman and after executing the first all-female spacewalks in the history of space travels.
Decent to the Earth
Koch is coming back with astronaut Luca Parmitano who is from European Space Agency and Russian astronaut Aleksandr Skvortsov who have been present at the station since July. Yesterday, the trio climbed into a Russian Soyuz capsule which was docked to the station and then made the three-hour journey home.
Since launching to the station in March of last year, Koch has executed various science experiments while being on board the ISS. The experiments include the study of the behavior of fire in microgravity, as well as research on how protein crystals grow in space. Koch herself has also been the epicenter of the experiments, providing NASA with information regarding the body changes during long stays in space. Koch has spent 328 days in space, just shy of the 340 days NASA astronaut Scott Kelly spent on the ISS for his one-year mission. Data from both of their stays have helped NASA research how astronauts’ bodies might change during future long-duration missions to Mars.
However, Koch’s most remarkable and memorable achievements were the three spacewalks she executed with a fellow crew member (and best friend) Jessica Meir, registering the first time when two women performed work outside of a spacecraft without any men astronaut assisting them. Originally Koch had been nominated to execute the first all-female spacewalk back in March; however, she had to do the operation with her male crew member due to lack of space suit sizes. Finally, Koch and Meir got the chance to create history together in October and then again this January.
Koch and her colleagues started the journey home at around 9:30 PM ET when they boarded their Soyuz capsule and shut down the hatch to the space station. At around 12:50 AM ET, they undocked from the ISS and drifted farther away from the orbiting lab. Once they were far enough, the Soyuz ignited its main engine to take the vehicle out of orbit around 3:18 AM ET. After less than an hour the Soyuz capsule touched down in Kazakhstan at 4:12 AM ET after making the fierce descent through Earth’s atmosphere and releasing its parachutes.
After this crew left, the ISS right now is holding three crew members: Meir, NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. The trio is going to stay for three months including February and March until three more astronauts join them in April: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin. That six-person group won’t remain for very long, as Meir, Morgan, and Skripochka are poised to return to their home in April as well.
NASA provided coverage on its online channel for each major event of yesterday’s events, people who were awake at the moment could watch Koch’s finale to a jam-packed time in space.
Hello, I’m Anna Yeo. If you like my news coverage, please drop a good word in my inbox. I’m journalist by profession and have been part of many major reporting across the globe. I like to write crisp and factual news. I have completed my masters degree in journalism. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]