Imagine spending a week without your friends, family, or daily comforts. Seems difficult, doesn’t it? Now imagine doing that for an entire year. That’s exactly what Christine Koch will be doing for her 2019 mission. A few days prior NASA announced that the female astronaut from the US crew will be spending roughly a year in the International Space Station.
Christina was launched up to the station roughly a month prior and plans to reenter earth in time for February 2020. That’s a whopping 328 days in the micro-gravity recesses of Earth’s orbit. Although this does mean she won’t be beating Scott Kelly’s record for 340 days anytime soon. But if you count the longest record for a continuous spaceflight for a female astronaut, then she has Peggy Whitson’s record of 288 days beat.
While this will be a truly remarkable feat for Koch in itself, it will be even more valuable for the scientists and engineers working at NASA. The mission is designed as a joint effort by NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. The plan for this mission as with most other ISS mission is to observe human living conditions in space.
NASA has said in a statement that it wishes to test the nature and adaptability of its astronauts for longer spaceflight missions. And it hopes that this data will come in handy for its Human Research Program for future missions to the Moon and possibly Mars.
The two space agencies are always eager to figure out how stress testing the human body in orbit will affect them in the long term. This mission comes from a large catalogue of similar missions to provide helpful data to scientists for future spaceflight.
While boarding the ISS, Koch joined up with her spaceflight team which included her colleague Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut called Aleksey Ovchinin. Another member of her crew NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is expected to arrive in July. She will be sharing bunks with these crewmates for her nearly year long journey in space.
NASA has planned a bevy of spaceflight missions for the year. Several space launches and landings are to be expected in the coming months to and from the International Space Station. It’s expected that there will be many more continuous spaceflight missions for astronauts like Christina Koch.
The long term plan for these kinds of missions is to collect data on the mental and physical ability for astronauts to adapt to living in space. The record of a continuous spaceflight for a full 365 days remains to be up for grabs. Perhaps it can be claimed by an astronaut in the coming years.
What the future holds for Koch, NASA, and human space exploration is unknown. But it is expected that one day we will be able to push the limits of what has been and can be achieved. Meanwhile, astronauts like Christina Koch will help us inch ever closer to that goal.