NASA's Christina Koch's stay to help understand effect of long term spaceflight on women

All the data of astronaut's lives in space mostly focus on men, Christina Koch will help researchers understand women in space better.

Christina Koch is expected to set a record for the longest NASA space mission by a woman when she completes her 11-month stay on the International Space Station (ISS). She will break the record set by astronaut Peggy Whitson (288 days). She is scheduled to remain in orbit until February 2020.

"It's an honour to follow in Peggy's footsteps," Koch was quoted as saying by NASA. She arrived on board the space station on 14 March to begin research activities as part of the Expedition 59 crew.

Astronaut Koch in uniform. Image: NASA

Astronaut Koch in uniform. Image: NASA

Men and women react differently in space. Koch's 11-month is meant to help researchers study the effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman. Koch's planned stay is just short of the longest single spaceflight by a NASA astronaut, Scott Kelly, who had stayed on board for 340 days during his one-year mission in 2015-16.

All the data NASA currently has is for male astronauts as they have spent the most amount of time in space. This study becomes imperative as Koch's mission is in preparation for NASA's human mission to the Moon or Mars.

"Christina's extended mission will provide additional data for NASA's Human Research Program and continue to support future missions to the Moon and Mars," said Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist of the Human Research Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, US.

This news comes at a time when an all-woman spacewalk had to be cancelled, on 29 March, as there were not enough spacesuits available. Both the female astronauts wore size medium, however, there was only one suit available. After serious backlash, NASA released a statement saying that they had more than one suit on-board, they just did not have enough time to resize it to fit before the walk.

NASA last month accepted a challenge from the Donald Trump administration to return humans to the Moon by 2024, four years ahead of the US space agency’s earlier set target.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator said, “This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap— sending astronauts to Mars.”

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