NASA astronaut, Christina Koch's time in Space is coming to a close, 328 days after she launched away from Earth. Koch will leave the International Space Station (ISS) on February 6, making her the second-longest NASA astronaut to remain in Space for the duration of a single spaceflight.
Her mission on the ISS was to gather data and information for future missions to the Moon and Mars.
Koch's mission in Space
Koch's first spaceflight included three expeditions and gave her the title of the longest single spaceflight achieved by any woman astronaut.
During her mission on the ISS, Koch worked on over 210 investigations. The goal of these investigations was to facilitate astronauts' return to the Moon, as well as human exploration to Mars.
These investigations included studies that focused on these specific future missions, including research into how the human body deals with weightlessness, isolation, radiation, and the stresses of long-term spaceflight. All integral for future Space explorations.
One stand-out investigation Koch took part in was centered around Vertebral Strength. This project defined the extent of spaceflight-induced bone and muscle degradation of the spine, and what risks these pose on the broken vertebrae.
The aim was to find countermeasures to the issue, such as preventative medicine or exercise.
Another notable project Koch worked on during her stint on the ISS was the Microgravity Crystals Investigation — the crystallization of a membrane protein that is important to tumor growth and cancer survival. This has yet to function on Earth, however, the results may assist in the development of cancer treatments with fewer side effects, and better protein targeting.
NASA investigations in Space
The American space agency has been working on collecting large amounts of data regarding astronaut health over the last 60 years. One of their aims is to increase and facilitate long-duration spaceflights for astronauts in future missions.
NASA already has a solid and rigorous training program for astronauts heading up to Space, as well as a rehabilitation and reconditioning program for once they're back on Earth. This enables astronauts' bodies to remain strong and in good health both in Space and once back on Earth.
✨ “We have a responsibility to the people that we represent up here, to carry people’s dreams into space with us.” -@Astro_Christina ✨— ISS Research (@ISS_Research) February 3, 2020
Thank you Christina Koch for fulfilling the dreams of scientists, by being their eyes and hands aboard the @Space_Station. pic.twitter.com/8aKIiv4s5P
As NASA works towards longer spaceflights, the agency has to increase its research on maintaining astronauts' health and conditioning. Koch's presence on the ISS has been invaluable, especially as the agency is looking to send its first woman to the Moon in its future mission.