Dec. 28 (UPI) — NASA astronaut Christina Koch set the record Saturday for the longest single space flight by a woman at 289 days.
Koch, 40, surpassed the record set by Peggy Whitson, who spent 288 consecutive days in space in 2016-2017.
Koch arrived on the international space station in March and in April NASA announced she would remain aboard the ISS until February. If the mission ends on the scheduled Feb. 6, her time in space will stand at 328 days.
Koch’s stay will be only be slightly shorter than the all-time NASA record for longest space flight. That was set in 2016 by Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days in space.
Russian Valeri Polyakov is the holder for the longest single stay in space, with 437 days and 18 hours on board the Mir space station from 1994 to 1995.
“It’s a wonderful thing for science,” she told CNN from aboard the International Space Station. “We see another aspect of how the human body is affected by microgravity for the long term, and that’s really important for our future spaceflight plan going forward to the moon and to Mars.”
Koch’s flight is part of ongoing research to understand the human body responds to extended time in microgravity and how to protect against ill effects, in preparation for future missions to the moon and Mars.
In October, Koch and Jessica Meir successfully completed the first all-female spacewalk outside of the International Space Station.
Whitson, who retired in 2018 at 57, still holds the record for total number of days in space by an American in space — man or woman — with 665 days in three missions aboard the ISS.
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka holds the world record, having spent 879 days in space aboard five missions over 17 years until 2015.