HOUSTON (AP/CBS News) — A U.S. astronaut who is a North Carolina State University graduate has set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman.
NASA officials say Christina Koch, who grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on Saturday broke the 288-day record set by former space station commander Peggy Whitson.
The 40-year-old electrical engineer from Montana has been in space since March 15.
She is expected to spend about 11 months on board the International Space Station, falling short of astronaut Scott Kelly’s 340-day U.S. record.
A Russian cosmonaut holds the world record at 15 months on a single mission aboard the former Mir space station in the mid-1990s.
Koch became the 14th woman to walk in space last March 29 when she and Hague worked to install a second set of solar array batteries. She originally was expected to venture outside with astronaut Anne McClain for the first all-female spacewalk, but Hague took McClain’s place because of a spacesuit sizing issue.
The all-female spacewalk finally happened on Oct. 18 when Koch and Meir, the 15th woman walk in space, ventured outside to replace a faulty battery charge-discharge unit. It was the first EVA by two women in the 54 years since the late Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov carried out history’s first spacewalk in 1965.
Asked about her most memorable moments in space, Koch said she enjoyed looking down on Michigan and North Carolina where she grew up, “but I would say the most awe-inspiring thing that I’ve ever seen is the Northern Lights or Southern Lights from above on a planetary scale.”
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