Christina Koch has blasted into the record books by completing the longest ever female single space flight - at 328 days.
Returning to Earth via the Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Thursday, the NASA astronaut's stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS) was only 12 days shorter than that of the all-time US record holder, Captain Scott Kelly, which was set in 2016.
Koch spent much of her time aboard the ISS involved experiments which may support future cancer treatments, specifically looking at proteins in a Microgravity Crystals investigation. During this time she orbited the Earth 5,248 times, travelling a distance of 139 Million miles and was also involved in another significant moment when she spent seven hours outside the ISS with her colleague Jessica Meir. The pair replaced a failed power control unit during that first all-female spacewalk in October 2019.
"For me, it was important to see people that I saw a reflection of myself in, growing up, when I was envisioning what I could do with my life and what my dreams might be. To maybe be that source of inspiration for someone else is just such an honour," she said.
Before becoming an Astronaut her career spanned two general areas: remote scientific field engineering and space science instrument development. She was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2013 and completed astronaut candidate training in July 2015. She'd previously graduated from University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Physics and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering before going on to contribute to multiple scientific projects, includeding a year at the Admunsen-Scott South Pole Station and a season at Palmer Station, where she served as a member of the Firefighting Teams and Ocean and Glacier Search and Rescue Teams.
Reaching for the stars
What qualifications do you need to be an astronaut?
Whilst going to into space might be someone's ultimate 'dream', for the lucky few who do become astronauts, it's most likely an opportunity that might present itself to relevant candidates already pursuing professional academic, scientific or aviation careers. In fact, you would normally enter as a candidate on the basis of academic credentials or piloting experience, according to the European Space Agency, and that "A high level of education in scientific or technical disciplines, coupled with an outstanding professional background in research, application or education fields possibly supported by the use of computer systems and applications, is essential".
According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, the basic requirements are as follows:
- Bachelor's degree in a STEM field
- Three years of related professional experience
- Pass the NASA astronaut physical
Whilst American Christina Koch entered through an academic and research route, British Astronaut, Tim Peake, approached his dream having logged more than 3,000 hours flight time as an army pilot, though he supplemented that experience with an academic degree in flight dynamics and evaluation from the University of Portsmouth.
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