DEC 29, 2019 6:40 AM PST

New Record for Longest Female Spaceflight Set

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

2019 was chock-full of record-setting precedents for NASA, especially in terms of women’s accomplishments. Perhaps the most substantial of those was the first all-female spacewalk that transpired before the holiday season. But just this weekend, NASA also eagerly announced that International Space Station-staying astronaut Christina Koch had set a new record for the longest spaceflight ever conducted by a female.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch stares out of the International Space Station's Cupola window.

Image Credit: NASA

The year isn’t completely over yet, but with 2020 lingering just over the horizon, the American space agency’s newest accomplishment is a distinguished signal of all the great space science-centric things we can expect to witness in the foreseeable future.

The title’s previous record holder was former Station Commander Peggy Whitson, who spent 288 consecutive days in space during her last mission before retiring from NASA. Koch crept past that record on Saturday, and with almost two months remaining in her mission before she returns to Earth, Koch will only continue to raise the bar for future female astronauts after her.

Related: Can ISRO build its own space station?

The single longest spaceflight ever endured by a U.S. astronaut was 340 days, a record set by former astronaut Scott Kelly who participated in the year-long space experiment with his twin brother so that NASA could learn more about the effects of long-term space exposure to the human body. While he stayed in space, his twin brother stayed on Earth, enabling scientists to discern any substantial changes or differences along the way.

When the clock for Koch’s mission times out, she won’t be too far behind Kelly. Her mission is expected to last 328 days in total, and it’s always possible for that projection to change depending on various circumstances.

Most astronauts only spend about six months (or ~180 days) in space, as the microgravitational environment isn’t particularly kind to the human body. The lack of a gravitational pull means that many of our muscles don’t need to work as hard, and muscle regeneration of perhaps one of the most challenging things an astronaut endures after returning to Earth.

Space radiation is another concern. While the International Space Station is heavily shielded to protect those onboard from space radiation, that shielding isn’t as robust as the Earth’s dense and rich atmosphere. That said, astronauts are exposed to substantially more space radiation than humans residing on Earth’s surface, and the science of understanding space radiation’s effects on the human body is still juvenile at best.

Related: Boeing's attempt to 'wow' NASA in first demo launch didn't go so well...

When Koch returns to Earth, it will be interesting to see what other record-shattering precedents NASA has in mind for women going forward. After all, it was a long time coming.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 14, 2020
Space & Astronomy
NASA Picks Astrobotic to Deliver VIPER Rover to the Moon
JUN 14, 2020
NASA Picks Astrobotic to Deliver VIPER Rover to the Moon
NASA is no stranger to autonomous rovers. To date, the American space agency has sent four rovers to the Martian surface ...
JUN 14, 2020
Space & Astronomy
SpaceX Launches First Rideshare Mission with Great Success
JUN 14, 2020
SpaceX Launches First Rideshare Mission with Great Success
If you’ve been following SpaceX, then you’d know that the commercial space company has been launching quite ...
AUG 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
What Will the End of the Universe Look Like?
AUG 16, 2020
What Will the End of the Universe Look Like?
Matt Caplan, a theoretical physicist at Illinois State University, has calculated when the last supernova will happen in ...
AUG 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Are There More Rogue Planets than Stars?
AUG 22, 2020
Are There More Rogue Planets than Stars?
Researchers from Ohio State University have theorized that there may be more rogue planets (planets that don't orbit ...
AUG 27, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Space Rock May Contain Building Blocks for DNA
AUG 27, 2020
Space Rock May Contain Building Blocks for DNA
Researchers say that a space rock that landed in Costa Rica on April 23rd, 2019, came from an asteroid that exists as a ...
OCT 29, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Water Found on Moon Enough to Sustain a Lunar Base
OCT 29, 2020
Water Found on Moon Enough to Sustain a Lunar Base
For the first time, scientists have found water on the moon's sunlit surface. Coupled with other evidence of water i ...
Loading Comments...