A NASA astronaut is set to set a record for a woman's longest space flight.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch will have her mission on the International Space Station (ISS) extended to 328 days. That would set a record for a woman's longest space flight, the US space agency said.
NASA and its ISS partners have set a new timeline and new crew designations that will include the first flight of NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and an extended stay for NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan.
ASTRONAUTA CHRISTINA KOCH
Christina Koch, who arrived at the space station on March 14 and is now scheduled to remain in orbit until February 2020, will eclipse the 288-day record set by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in 2016-17.
She will be part of three expeditions – 59, 60 and 61 – during her first spaceflight, NASA said in a statement.
"Christina's expanded mission will provide additional data for NASA's Human Research Program and will continue to support future missions to the Moon and Mars" Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist for the Human Research Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA, said.
NASA Astronaut Christina Koch conducts research on botany aboard the International Space Station | Photo of NASA
Its mission is expected to be just the longest space flight of a NASA astronaut – 340 days, set by former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly during his one-year mission in 2015-16.
Christina Koch and NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin will remain aboard the space station and begin Expedition 60.
On July 20, Morgan, European space agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov are scheduled to launch into the space station and join Expedition 60, returning the crew complement to six.
Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft that launched three new members of the 59-60 Expedition crew for ISS is portrayed coupled to the Rassvet module | Photo of NASA
The extended missions of Christina Koch and Morgan will help scientists collect additional data on the effects of long-lived manned space travel beyond the normal six-month expedition, NASA said.
FUTURE MISSIONS OF SPACE EXPLORATION
This research is essential to support future deep space exploration missions to Moon and Mars, according to the US space agency.
NASA has collected a wealth of data on the health and performance of astronauts over the past 50 years and has recently focused on extended durations of up to one year with Scott Kelly's dedicated mission and Peggy Whitson's extended mission.
These opportunities have also demonstrated that there is a significant degree of variability in the human response to space flight and it is important to determine the acceptable degree of change for men and women.
"Astronauts demonstrate incredible resilience and adaptability in response to the long duration of exposure to space flight" Fogarty said.
"This will allow for successful exploration missions with healthy, performance-ready astronauts.
"NASA is looking to develop what we have learned from additional astronauts in space for more than 250 days" she said.