A year in space
NASA announced on Wednesday April 17 Astronaut Christina Koch will spend nearly a year aboard the International Space Station. According to the new flight schedule, Koch, who launched to the space station on March 14 with colleague Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, will remain in orbit for 328 days, returning to Earth in February 2020.
Her colleague, NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, who is scheduled to make his first flight in July, will also remain in orbit for longer than usual, returning in the spring of 2020.
During her 11 months in space, she will monitor how her body responds to the mission, producing much-needed data about how well human bodies can withstand the dangers and hardships of long-term spaceflight. So far, that data has been difficult to come by.
Six and a half months is the mission, while only a handful of NASA astronauts have stayed in orbit longer than 200 days in a single spaceflight. That's problematic for an agency that has its sights set on human journeys to Mars a six- to eight-month flight in each direction within a decade or two. Koch's long mission in Earth orbit could offer peace of mind about what the impacts of such a journey might be; it could also shed light on how men and women respond differently to spaceflight, NASA officials said.