NASA astronaut Koch returns to Earth after record space mission :

American astronaut Christina Koch, who led the all- female spacewalk in 2019, landed in Kazakhstan on Thursday after a record stay on the International Space Station, ending a 328-day mission expected to yield new insights into deep-space travel.

Koch, a North Carolina born engineer who joined NASA's astronaut corps in 2013, set the record for the longest stay in space by a woman. Her mission will provide researchers valuable data on how weightlessness and space radiation affect the female body on long spaceflights.

''Women, acclimate well to space, so I think this this is a milestone that will be overtaken by women in the future and it's what we aspire to,'' said Lori Carver, NASA's former deputy administrator.

The Soyuz MS-13 capsule touched down on the snowy Kazakh Steppe at 4:12 am ET [0912 GMT] carrying Koch, 41, European astronaut Luca Parmitano of Italy and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov

They will be flown by search and recovery teams to the Karaganda region to begin their journey home.

''I'm just so overwhelmed and happy right now,'' Koch said, sitting in a chair wrapped in blankets as she waited to be carried into a medical tent to restore her balance in gravity.

Koch also achieved a gender milestone in a spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir last October that marked the first time two women stepped out of the space station at the same time.

They completed two more all-female spacewalks in January.

NASA's first attempt at an all-female spacewalk in March 2009, was called off due to a lack of spacesuit in the right size, which ignited a gender-equity debate. [Reuters]


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