A board the International Space Station, astronaut Christina Koch could watch the sunrise and set on Earth 16 times per day on all 328 days of her mission.
Now, having completed the longest spaceflight ever achieved by a woman, Koch has returned to Earth where she can view the sunrise in the morning and sunset in the evening from the comfort of her home in Galveston, Texas.
“Oh, how I miss the wind on my face, the feeling of raindrops, sand on my feet and the sound of the surf crashing on the Galveston beach,” Koch said in anticipation of her arrival. “We take daily sensory inputs for granted until they are absent … I cannot wait to feel and hear Earth again.”
“Seeing the beauty of Ghana from space reminds me of the amazing people I met there and how in exploring the world, we learn about ourselves,” she added.
Koch surpassed American astronaut Peggy Whitson’s previous record of 288 days of spaceflight and was just 12 days shy of Scott Kelly’s all-time record of 340 days in space.
Koch’s mission will give researchers a new look into the long-term effects of spaceflight on women, as NASA prepares to land the first woman on the moon and plans human exploration missions to Mars. Koch returned to Earth with two other astronauts in Russia’s Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft on February 6 around 12:50 a.m. local time when the craft landed in Kazakhstan.
“I am so overwhelmed and happy right now,” Koch said as she exited the craft. After 11 months in orbit, the astronaut smiled, gave a thumbs-up and was helped into a chair for a post-flight check-up.
Russian space officials said all three astronauts are healthy, NBC News reports.
The US astronaut took a semester to study in Ghana while pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics at North Carolina State University.
Koch is a NASA astronaut of the class of 2013. She was selected as one of the eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class.
Her Astronaut Candidate Training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training, and water and wilderness survival training.
See Tweet Below:
20 years ago, I was studying abroad at the @UnivofGh. Like spaceflight, it was a positive, life-changing, perspective-deepening experience. Seeing the beauty of Ghana from space reminds me of the amazing people I met there and how in exploring the world, we learn about ourselves. pic.twitter.com/zK3CfRWJHY
— Christina H Koch (@Astro_Christina) December 12, 2019