NASA astronaut Christina Koch on the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Astronaut Christina Koch will spend nearly a year on the International Space Station, NASA announced Wednesday.

When Koch comes back to Earth in February 2020, she will hold the record for the longest spaceflight ever by a woman at 328 days. Koch arrived onboard the Space Station on March 14.

Why it matters: NASA has been mounting these year-long missions to help gear up the space agency for future human missions to Mars. By learning more about how the human body reacts to long-duration spaceflight, NASA may be able to devise ways to mitigate the risks posed by months-long trips to deep space destinations.

  • “Astronauts demonstrate amazing resilience and adaptability in response to long duration spaceflight exposure,” Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist of NASA's human research program, said in a statement.
  • NASA's recently published "twins study" showed that astronaut Scott Kelly's body and even cognition changed during his 340 days in space, but those changes aren't necessarily limiting factors for long-duration spaceflight in the future.

Details: Koch will surpass NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson's record of 288 days for the longest single spaceflight by a woman and come just shy of Kelly's "year in space."

  • Koch's stay in space was recently in the spotlight due to NASA's cancelation of the first all female spacewalk with Koch and her fellow crewmember Anne McClain, due to a lack of ready-to-use spacesuits in their sizes.
  • NASA's Andrew Morgan is also expected to have an extended stay on the space station when he launches in July. Morgan's flight should last about 255 days.

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