Astronaut Christina Koch recently returned to Earth after a 328-day mission in space. The Livingston resident made history with the longest space flight by a woman astronaut and the first all-female space walk. Koch’s contributions to science could be even more far-reaching.
During a NASA press call Wednesday, Koch recalled what it was like to see Earth from space.
“It just looked exactly like you might see in the pictures except way more brighter, way more real, and I literally exclaimed, I just said, ‘Oh my goodness!’ It was just phenomenal, and it was that moment when I realized I had just left our planet,” Koch said.
She spent nearly a year working at the International Space Station. Koch's long list of research projects included looking at how microgravity affects the growth of mustard greens, which could be important for future, long-duration missions to the moon and Mars. She also studied fire behavior in space and the structure of certain proteins.
“To unlock some of these diseases that we all are looking for a cure here on Earth, often we have to understand the structure of the proteins that enable those diseases.”
Koch said these particular protein crystals don’t always grow very well on Earth.
“If we grow them in microgravity, we have a leg up in understanding their structure and then a leg up on learning about the medications we can develop to fight those things.”
Koch’s extended mission will help researchers observe the effects of a long-duration spaceflight on a woman as NASA plans to send the first woman to the moon in 2024 and prepare for human exploration on Mars.
During the press call, Koch was asked what she would say to the next generation of female space explorers after making history.
“It is a great honor to know that may be the case, and I’ve always said about any record you can set is: it’s my biggest hope it’s exceeded as soon as possible,” Koch responded.
Since her return to earth February 6th, Koch said she has enjoyed reuniting with her family and dog and eating chips and salsa.