Record-setting astronaut feels great after near year in space

Record-breaking NASA astronaut Christina Koch says she ‘felt like a baby’ and ‘struggled to hold up her own head’ after 11 months in space

  • Christina Koch has readjusted well to Earth’s gravity after 328 days on the ISS  
  • Koch told press she returned home to her dog and a bowl of homemade salsa 
  • The astronaut broke the record for the longest time spent in space by a woman  

NASA astronaut Christina Koch felt like a ‘two-week-old’ baby after returning from a record-breaking 328-day stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS). 

The 41-year-old electrical engineer said she’s now ‘feeling great’ after smashing the record for the longest time spent in space by a female astronaut. 

Aside from sore muscles and trouble with balance, she told reporters that she’s readjusting well to gravity, although her neck hurt for about a day. 

‘What I have noticed is that my balance has taken a little while to get used to,’ she said in Houston on Wednesday, six days after returning to Earth.   

‘I felt like a two-week-old who was actually working hard to hold up my own head. 

‘The physical act of walking was something to get used to but I’m feeling great.’ 

Koch returned to Earth on the Soyuz crew ship, which touched down in the desert in Kazakhstan at 09:12 GMT Thursday, February 6. 

Specialists help U.S. astronaut Christina Koch shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-13 space capsule

Koch considers herself lucky she didn’t have the sore feet and burning skin suffered by NASA’s all-time endurance champ, Scott Kelly, whose returned to earth four years ago after a 340-day mission.  

Koch returned home to Galveston, Texas, to find a kitchen full of chips and salsa, something she’d craved in orbit. 

She hit the beach with her husband, Bob, and their dog, a rescue pup called LBD, or Little Brown Dog, just three days after her landing in Kazakhstan.

‘I’m not sure who was more excited to see the other,’ Koch said.

‘It’s just a symbol of coming back to the people and places that you love, to see your favourite animal.’

Koch said that it only took her about three months to feel at home on the ISS, and that daily activities started to feel normal – even floating due to the low gravity.   

NASA Astronaut Christina Koch answers questions during a postflight news conference at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on February 12, 2020

Koch returned to Earth safely on February 6, 2020, after shattering the spaceflight record for female astronauts with a stay of almost 11 months aboard the International Space Station

‘I kind of forgot I was floating until a new crew would come and they would be so excited about floating,’ she said. 

‘I would be like, I guess we are floating, aren’t we?’   

Koch also advised the next generation of female space explorers to follow their passions and ‘do what scares you’.

Soyuz MS-13 space capsule descends about 90 miles south-east of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, February 6, 2020, carrying, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov

In this June 2019 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Christina Koch poses for a portrait inside of the vestibule between a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and the Harmony module of the International Space Station

‘Do the things that might feel like they’re just out of your reach, they’re intriguing you, they’re drawing you in, but you don’t know for sure if you can do it.

‘Go after that thing – not only will you maximally impact the world but you’ll get the most personal fulfilment out of it and use that as a springboard.’ 

Koch flew to the space station last March already made history in October when she became one half of the first-ever all-woman spacewalk along with NASA counterpart Jessica Meir. 

NASA astronaut Christina Koch in her space suit while performing duties aboard the International Space Station

Koch’s last tweet before she returned to Earth was just over a week ago, showing the view from the ISS 

Three astronauts remain at the orbiting lab, including the other half of the all-female spacewalk, NASA’s Jessica Meir.

Koch surpassed the previous record set for a single spaceflight by a woman – 289 days, set by NASA veteran Peggy Whitson in 2017 – on December 28, 2019. 

As well as breaking the record for longest continuous time in space by a woman, Koch also ranks seventh on the list for overall time spent in space by US astronauts.  

Koch tweeted last week before her return: ‘What will I miss? The exquisite beauty of both the planet Earth and this marvel that its amazing people created.’ 

The tweet was accompanied by a sweeping image of the Earth as seen from the ISS.

Koch touched down last week with colleagues Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency.

Unlike Koch, her fellow ISS inhabitants Parmitano and Skvortsov rounded off six-month missions on the ISS. 


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