Christina Koch is back on Earth after months of making giant leaps for female astronauts in space.
On Thursday, the U.S. astronaut, 41, landed safely in Kazakhstan with astronauts Luca Parmitano (of the European Space Agency) and Alexandr Skvortsov (of Russia) — all of whom had been staying at the International Space Station, according to ABC News.
The return home marked the end of a record-setting stay at the ISS for Koch, who was stationed there for 328 consecutive days. Her nearly 11-month mission became the longest spaceflight for a woman, after she surpassed the previous record of 289 days back in December.
In other celestial milestones, Koch also participated in the first-ever all-female spacewalk, along with Jessica Meir. Back in October, the two scientists had to venture outside the ISS to fix a power controller, making history in the process.
Koch — who documented her out-of-this-world journey on social media — shared a photo of some of her fellow crew mates on Instagram, shortly before she parted ways with them.
“I’m going to miss this bunch. Thank you, space family. #Expedition61,” she captioned the zero-gravity friend photo.
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Koch was born in Michigan and raised in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and later became a graduate of North Carolina State University. Prior to her residency among the stars, she lived in Montana with her husband, Robert Koch. She was selected by NASA to become an astronaut in 2013.
On March 14, Koch arrived at the ISS for Day 1 of her now-concluded mission.
It was a momentous day she said she won’t soon forget.
“That was the day that I have seared in my memory,” she said, according to NASA. “Visions from when I first arrived here. … I’m very privileged to have that as one of my favorite memories.”
Recalling her first time conducting a spacewalk back in March, Koch said it was gratifying: “At that moment, I just felt like everything I had ever worked for, everything I had ever loved, everything I had ever wanted to contribute to my entire life was just culminating in that moment.”
Koch’s mission, according to ABC News, will help researchers better understand the effects of space-living on the female body, cluing scientists in on future plans for longterm deep-space exploration.
Recapping her experience to NASA, Koch marveled at how her body and mind adapted to her environment, so much so that she had “actually forgotten that [she] was floating.”
“It’s been a huge surprise to see that life up here can actually become normal because of what our bodies can adapt to,” she said.