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NASA's Christina Koch sets record for longest spaceflight by a woman

Koch was also part of the the first all-woman spacewalk, back in October.

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Edward Moyer
2 min read
Astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan inside the International Space Station's seven-windowed cupola.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan inside the International Space Station's seven-windowed cupola this past September.

NASA

Call it a giant leap for womankind. As of Saturday, astronaut Christina Koch has set the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, completing her 289th day on the International Space Station.

That bests Peggy Whitson's stay on the ISS in 2016-17, but Koch's currently scheduled sojourn will bring her up just short of Scott Kelly's 340-day record -- Koch is set to be on the space station until February, a 328-day visit. Part of her mission is to study how long-term space travel impacts the human body, info that could be crucial as NASA ponders sending astronauts to Mars.

Koch is no stranger to trailblazing in orbit. In October, she and Jessica Meir took the first ever all-woman spacewalk (it was Koch's fourth outdoor stroll among the stars). She remains humble, though. Of her record-setting ISS stay, she says she'd be happy to relinquish the title.

"My No. 1 hope for this milestone," she told CBS This Morning, "is that the record is exceeded again as soon as possible. Because that means that we're continuing to push the boundaries."

Koch has a background as an electrical engineer for NASA, where she worked on scientific instruments for several of the space agency's missions. She became an astronaut in 2013.

So what's next? Koch has said she wouldn't mind being the first woman on the moon.

"That's always the image I had from the very first drawing I did when I said I wanted to be an astronaut in the first grade," she said during a Q&A after her historic spacewalk.

In May, NASA said its mission to return humans to the lunar surface would be called Artemis. In Greek mythology, Artemis was the sister of Apollo, who lent his name to the series of missions that in 1969 made Neil Armstrong the first to set foot on the moon. The space agency has said the Artemis mission will take NASA astronauts "to the surface of the moon by 2024, including the first woman and next man."

Koch says it's essential to include women in the space equation.

"It's important to not turn away any innovative idea, that everyone has a role, and everyone has a place at the table as we move forward," she told CBS This Morning. "If we're going to go for all humanity, and to support humanity's love for exploration, then we have to do it with all humanity. ... We have to go together if we're going to go and we're going to do it right."

Beyond Apollo: See NASA aim for the moon with Artemis 2024

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