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NASA astronaut Christina Koch has set a new record for the longest stay in space by a woman

AP, February 9, 2020 5:32AM AP

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NASA astronaut Christina Koch as she is helped out of the space capsule on Friday. Picture: Bill INGALLS / NASA / AFP media_cameraNASA astronaut Christina Koch as she is helped out of the space capsule on Friday. Picture: Bill INGALLS / NASA / AFP

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NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who spent nearly 11 months in orbit* to set a record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, has landed safely back on Earth with her two International Space Station crewmates.

It is hoped the pioneering 328-day voyage by Koch, 41, will provide new insights into deep-space travel.

Koch was with Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut* Alexander Skvortsov when their space capsule* parachuted back to Earth in the Kazakh desert in Kazakhstan on Friday.

“I’m just so overwhelmed and happy right now,” Koch said, sitting in a chair wrapped in blankets as she waited to be carried into a medical tent to restore her balance in gravity*.

Space experts said the three astronauts were all in good shape.

media_cameraU.S. astronaut Christina Koch gives a thumbs up shortly after landing back on Earth. Picture: Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool Photo via AP

Koch’s mission broke the record for the longest stay in space by a woman, previously held by American Peggy Whitson.

Koch also achieved a gender milestone* in a space walk with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir in October.

That mission marked the first time two women stepped out of the space station at the same time and Koch said she hoped it “could serve as an inspiration for future space explorers”.

NASA’s first attempt at an all-female space walk was abandoned in March 2019 when it was discovered there were no spacesuits small enough to fit the women.

The wardrobe issue sparked a gender-equity* debate in the space community.

media_cameraThe space capsule lands in the Kazakh desert. Picture: Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool Photo via AP

NASA said Koch’s lengthy mission would provide researchers with much-needed data on how weightlessness and space radiation* affect the female body on long spaceflights.

That science, to be studied in the coming months, could prove useful for the US space agency’s aim of building a permanent space station on the moon within the next decade.

US astronaut Scott Kelly’s 340 days in orbit starting in 2015 demonstrated that long-term spaceflight has serious impacts on human health.

He was found to be suffering from a thickening of the carotid artery* and retina*, and slight memory problems.

media_cameraRussian traditional wooden dolls depicting US astronaut Christina Koch, left, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, right, and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. Picture: Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool Photo via AP

Launched into orbit last March, Koch’s mission was extended in April from its original span of six months to nearly a year after she was already aboard the station.

She sits fifth in the all-time longest spaceflight charts.

NASA’s Christina Koch shatters female spaceflight record

GLOSSARY

  • orbit: rotation around the Earth
  • cosmonaut: a Russian astronaut
  • capsule: a small spacecraft or the part of a larger one that contains the instruments or crew
  • milestone: a significant stage or event
  • gender-equity: the fair treatment of women and men
  • carotid artery: major blood vessel in the neck that supply blood to the brain, neck, and face
  • retina: membrane at the back of your eye that sends signals to the brain about what you are seeing

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How many days did Christina Koch spend in space?
  2. Where did their space capsule return to Earth?
  3. What gender milestone did Koch achieve in space?
  4. What effects can spaceflight have on the human body?
  5. Where does Koch sit on the list of longest spaceflights in history?

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. What’s that word?
You may have noticed the words astronaut and cosmonaut used in this news article and wondered if they are both the same thing … well, they are, sort of. Another alternative title for this occupation is taikonaut.

Can you find out:

  • What the difference is between an astronaut, a cosmonaut and a taikonaut, even though they do the same job?
  • The origin (base words) and meaning of each of them?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

2. Extension
Create a graph to visually represent the five longest spaceflights in history.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Mathematics


VCOP ACTIVITY
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalists have used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?


HAVE YOUR SAY: Could you spend almost a year in space on the International Space Station away from family and friends?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.

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