Astronaut Christina Koch already made history in October as one of the astronauts to conduct the first all-women space walk. Less than three months later, she passed another milestone: Koch broke the record for the longest single spaceflight made by a woman.
In an interview with CNN, Koch called Whitson her “mentor” and said that she looks forward to returning to Earth — and, to pay it forward, assisting future women astronauts. “My biggest hope for the record is that it’s exceeded as soon as possible again,” Koch said.
Currently, the U.S. record for the longest flight is held by astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days in space in 2015 and 2016. Koch previously said in a NASA interview broadcast that, to prepare for her flight, she read Kelly’s 2017 autobiography, Endurance.
Koch started her flight in April, and was supposed to partake in an all-women spacewalk in March; it was cancelled when the astronauts learned NASA only had one medium-sized spacesuit on hand. Finally, in October, Koch and fellow astronaut Jessica Meir completed the walk.
“I think it's important because of the historical nature of what we're doing and that, in the past, women haven't always been at the table," Koch said at the time, according to CNN. “It's wonderful to be contributing to human spaceflight at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role. That can lead, in turn, to increased chance for success.”