back to article NASA's Christina Koch returns to Earth as the longest-serving woman astronaut – after spending 328 days in space

Christina Koch, NASA astronaut and engineer, has set a record after orbiting Earth in the International Space Station for 328 days – the longest amount of time spent in space on a single flight by a woman. She is now back on terra firma, after a space capsule carrying fellow crewmates Alexander Skvortsov, Soyuz Commander of …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Brilliant job that Woman!

    That's quite an achievement. I'll bet full earth gravity feels like a real drag. I wonder how long it will take her to get her earth legs back?

    Thumbs up, because all such space-flying events are very inspiring.

    1. NATTtrash

      Re: Brilliant job that Woman!

      I wonder how long it will take her to get her earth legs back?

      On the Beebs Beyond 100 Days yesterday was an interview with an American gentleman (sorry, forgot name) who also did a really long stretch. When asked, he mentioned that, even after a week you would need 2-3 days to readjust. This is mainly your equilibrium getting used again to up, down, and all that. Period of headaches and nausea guaranteed. For longer stretches muscle hypotropia sets in, and can prolong readjustment periods up to (in his experience) 6 months...

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Brilliant job that Woman!

        I heard a story told by Chris Hadfield: See, in micro-gravity, your body has a lot of trouble telling up and down, so after a few days of adjustment, it stops listening to your inner ear, and goes by visual cues instead.

        Now, one of the first things that all astro/cosmonauts want when they get home is a proper shower (they probably need it too), so Mr Hadfield got home, went into his shower, started to soap up, and then closed his eyes. The trouble was, his body wasn't using his ears for balance yet, and with his eyes closed it lost track of 'down', and so he fell straight over.

        Apparently this isn't particularly uncommon, it's just not one of the stories they tell very often.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Brilliant job that Woman!

        "For longer stretches muscle hypotropia sets in, and can prolong readjustment periods up to (in his experience) 6 months..."

        This is a big issue when thinking of a trip to Mars. Astronauts (Cosmonauts) would be in free fall for much of the trip and would land on the surface with no way to re-adjust to being in gravity again. Since they will have to get immediately to work setting up habitats, etc to survive, this will be a big handicap and could prove fatal.

        A six month stay on a space station followed by a trip to a moon base could be a good way to simulate a Mars trip with some backup in case it turns out that it will be hard to re-adjust and cope so quickly.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Brilliant job that Woman!

          All this ignoring all the efforts to use exercise to fend of hypotrophia. They use an exercycle whilst strapped down to it for eg. Travellers to Mars will have to spend much of the travel time working out as many of their muscles as possible.

          Also I though the idea with the Mars habs was to send down a load of autonomous bots to build them before the colonists get there. Perhaps not military spec attack robots in that Mars scifi film I've forgotten the name of. But dome erectors and bulldozer type things to pile Mars soil over the top of it for extra radiation protection.

          So the Marsnauts should be able to exit their landing craft and wander into their habs though fitting the habs out might have to wait for their arrival.

      3. Sherrie Ludwig

        Re: Brilliant job that Woman!

        "Period of headaches and nausea guaranteed. For longer stretches muscle hypotropia sets in, and can prolong readjustment periods up to (in his experience) 6 months..."

        So, a bit like pregnancy, but without the stretch marks. Includes the demineralization of bones and teeth, so very like pregnancy. Why send a man to do a woman's work?

        I will be very happy when these "first women", first black", first trans" news stories go away...because they are common and unremarkable.

        1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Brilliant job that Woman!

          I will be very happy when these "first women", first black", first trans" news stories go away...because they are common and unremarkable.

          Yeah, I would be happier if these were more along the lines of "first alien" and "first contact".

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    Question : What's more import ?

    In this day and age of being Politically Correct why are we making such a fuss about his person being a woman.. The achievement in and of itself is remarkable, regardless of their sex. Would it not be more correct to simply congratulate this "astronaut / person " on the their accomplishment....

    It really is double standards everywhere these days, even today on El Reg their is an article about GitLabs requesting female staff to wear short skirts and heels too an event and the comment section makes an uproar about treating people this way and yet here we congratulate "women" rather than just congratulating a person...

    Or are we required to use the term "woman" when it is something positive.

    Personally, I wish Christina Koch a welcome return and well done for having achieved such a task...

    1. groovyf

      Re: Question : What's more import ?

      Agreed... With the drive for equality in all areas, we really should strive to stop marking events relating to the "first woman...", "first black person...". Any achievement for such a title is worthy in itself. Until such branding stops, we'll struggle to attain proper equality.

      P.S. Thumbs up for Koch - I wonder how long it'll take for bone/muscle mass to return to normal levels.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Question : What's more import ?

      why are we making such a fuss about his person being a woman

      I agree with the principle, but it does have some significance in the medical arena. As noted it gives NASA doctors a chance to catch up on their research and see how long periods in space can affect the half of the human race that hasn't been exposed to such conditions as much. Think of it as rectifying an omission (which probably shouldn't have happened in the first place).

      1. A K Stiles Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Question : What's more import ?

        Certainly with (to my knowledge) ladies being more prone to osteoporosis, the wasting effects of prolonged microgravity on bones could hold significant science, or perhaps even her capacity to replenish the bone density now she has returned to 1g.

        Maybe stout instead of lager for the alleged health benefits (?) but a drink to each of the 'nauts for having the drive to get them there, and back again.

        1. NATTtrash

          Re: Question : What's more import ?

          ...ladies being more prone to osteoporosis, the wasting effects of prolonged microgravity on bones...

          Sorry, have to correct you here. Osteoporosis does indeed have a higher prevalence in women... of a certain age. The drop in hormone production in menopausal women causes this. Before menopause, in general, we are pretty much "the same". However, as always with these kind of statements, there is individual variation. As tech people it might be more significant that "activity" is correlated negatively with osteoporosis. So, I suppose "non-active, unwashed screen dwellers" have to watch it (too) ☺

          1. A K Stiles Silver badge

            Re: Question : What's more import ?

            Thank you for the added clarity. What with being currently 41 years old, that would seem to be some potentially interesting science for her to be involved in over the next 20 or so years.

            1. Robert Grant

              Re: Question : What's more import ?

              She'd be a single data point - you'd have to have a very good reason to do this enough times to make a study useful!

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Pint

          Re: Question : What's more import ?

          but a drink to each of the 'nauts for having the drive to get them there, and back again.

          I believe it's a tradition that the ground crew bring the Soyuz crew some nice vodka to celebrate their safe return to Earth. As is only right and proper!

          They've certainly earned it.

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Question : What's more import ?

        If we are to achieve anything in space, it is extremely important to understand how the rigors of long periods in space affect the female body. Particularly those of childbearing age as that impacts the potential for eventual colonisation.

        That doesn't suggest that women don't have the same potential as men for space exploration, it is just a question of looking for obstacles that need to be overcome.

        The first female cosmonaut, Valerie Tereshkova ( hope I spelled her name correctly) went up in 1963, she was an engineer, skydiver and went on to become a member of the Duma.

        Considering even in this so called politically correct world women and ethnic minorities are still discriminated against, it is relevant to mention sex or face to demonstrate that any human has the potential to do anything.

        The phrase ' Political Correctness' implies being correct for reasons of policy rather than simply believing that ALL of humanity is inherently equal.

        1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

          Re: Question : What's more import ?

          " ... Particularly those of childbearing age ..."

          Yerp, and one of the more important aspects of female biology has been constantly, consistently and hypocritically discriminated against by NASA's bosses for reasons of politics, mainly not offending the deep-pocketed priests who fund the politicians who are on the funding committees.

          Nearly sixty years of manned off-world flights and not once have mating, pregnancy and birth been tested for viability during long flights.

          Nor have any of them even been tested under low gravity, for example that of the lunar surface.

          True, we have all sorts of SF extrapolations on the subject but those are *not* valid data publishable in respected medical journals. We need women to do things in orbit, on the Moon, on Mars and under boost mid-flight.

          Just to see whether the human species *can* go interstellar.

          It may turn out that Larry Niven's "Confinement Asteroid" is indeed a vital, biologically imperative tool which will forever restrict the expansion of Mankind. If so, we're sort of stuffed.

          Or, more likely, biological plasticity may allow for Man to adapt to sex, gestation, birth and child-rearing under free-fall and low-gravity conditions, a power that would make the colonisation of the cosmos far easier than if we can't so adapt.

          Does it not behove us to find out?

          Making babies is not a tiny, irrelevant, mucky little bit of biology humans can hide away if they want to become ubiquitous and eternal. It is the one thing that prevents extinction. It is *important*. It is, indeed, essential to the continued existence of the species.

          It's something NASA should be testing. Lots.

          Yes, maybe with cats and chimps first but humans need to "do it", too.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Question : What's more import ?

            "Nearly sixty years of manned off-world flights and not once have mating, pregnancy and birth been tested for viability during long flights."

            It's a touchy subject since the child may have severe developmental problems and the health of the woman might also be severely impacted. Lots of thought will have to go into allowing a baby to be conceived in space. A spontaneous abortion or the need for surgical intervention with no chance to bring the woman back to Earth could lead to death. How could a newborn be brought back to Earth safely if it needs more care than can be provided?

            It's something that will have to be tested at some point, but maybe it's best done on a moon base where there is at least some gravity and medical precautions and equipment can be sorted beforehand. Is it gravity that makes babies normally present head down in preparation for birth or could it be more likely that a baby could present as breech?

            Scary stuff.

            1. Muscleguy Silver badge

              Re: Question : What's more import ?

              While the embryo will feel some gravity bear in mind it develops under water so is largely weightless in effect. NASA trains people and practices things on earth in big deep pools of water for reason you know.

              Foetuses who have not turned head down can be turned in the uterus from outside by a suitably trained person. Also breach births are not exactly unheard of and there's also the backup of a caesarian.

              I'm a developmental biologist and I would be surprised if embryonic development is affected. Foetal development might be and a baby born in zero g would likely find it hard to adjust to gravity but will likely do so when exposed to it since we are hard wired to operate in 1g or thereabouts.

              My youngest is cross lateral, she has no innate sense of left and right but she functions just fine, just don't ask her to navigate while in the car. Being told to 'turn here' at a crossroads and not getting a reply when you ask 'which way' happens, or so I'm informed by her husband. Doesn't stop her coding but.

          2. Timbo

            Re: Question : What's more import ?

            "Nearly sixty years of manned off-world flights and not once have mating, pregnancy and birth been tested for viability during long flights.

            Nor have any of them even been tested under low gravity, for example that of the lunar surface."

            May I respectfully ask to be considered for these tests?

            Going into space +1

            Going to the moon +2

            Both the above AND some nooky with a Lois Chiles lookalike a la "Moonraker" (looks like he's going for re-entry") + 1000

          3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Question : What's more import ?

            Nearly sixty years of manned off-world flights and not once have mating, pregnancy and birth been tested for viability during long flights.

            Of course not. We haven't even proved that mature humans can live in space for long durations yet. But it's not true that we're not testing this stuff. We've been doing experiments on seed germination and development of frogs, fish and insects that get fertilised in space for years. But I don't think we've got as far as bonking mice yet.

            We're still making baby steps. We don't even have the technology to keep people safe outside the Earth's magnetic field. We took a risk on the lunar missions, but they were only at risk for about a week at a time. It's not just gravity that's the issue, it's also radiation.

            The thing that's stopping us from astronaut experiemental rumpy-pumpy is ethics. We've little idea what effect weightlessness or the increased radiation dose would have. And I'd imagine we're decades from trying.

            Particularly as none of the places we're looking at basing humans has a magnetic field. Mars, the Moon, the asteroids. A base on Venus is right out!

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Question : What's more import ?

          Valentina Tereshkova or Валентина Владимировна Терешкова depending on which alphabet you prefer and if you want to type out her full name. One of the few names I can type in Cyrillic. One of my prized possessions is a signed 8x10 photo of her. I'm a bit of a space nut.

    3. Ordinary Donkey

      Re: Question : What's more import ?

      I know Helen Sharman gets annoyed by the emphasis put on her gender by people who seem to think being the first British woman in space is a bigger deal than being the first British person in space.

      She got there first.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Question : What's more import ?

        Since she was a fee paying passenger on a (then) soviet rocket why are we making such a fuss about her being the first "British astronaut" ?

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Question : What's more import ?

          Because she was the first British astronaut - I guess and Cosmonaut. Also, which I hadn't realised until looking it up, the first woman to go to Mir.

          She wasn't a paying passenger either. She was the winner of a selection process - funded jointly by a consortium of sponsors and the Soviet space program. And she must have had some of the right stuff, as she made the shortlist when the UK were selecting Tim Peake, when we joined the ESA's manned spaceflight program.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Question : What's more import ?

      Shannon Lucid spent 179 days on Mir. Given the difference in the quality of accommodations, shouldn't there be a multiplier for her stay?

    5. Grooke

      Re: Question : What's more import ?

      I agree with the sentiment, but you have to fix the underlying cause first. Record holders for this type of thing are disproportionately male because they historically had more opportunities. If this is fixed and women are given the same opportunities to break records and pass milestones, then the distinction becomes unnecessary. Until then, women deserve recognition for making these achievements despite the odds stacked against them. No one would write/publish/read an article titled "person fails to break longest spaceflight record".

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Pint

    She may find it difficult to lift against 1g

    but this -->

  5. 0laf Silver badge
    Pint

    Beer with a straw

    She's earned it. Steely eyed Missile Woman.

    I have a baby daughter on route. I'm very glad she will have women like Christina Koch to look to as role models and not just the bloody Kardashians.

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: Beer with a straw

      Re role models, I gave my daughter Chrissie Wellingtons book "A Life Without Limits" for her 12th birthday. She's now 21 and she still says it's her favourite book and inspires her to really "own" her own life. It doesn't take anything but good parenting, time spent together, perspective and advice to get your kids to see how superficial the Kardashians and all of that other shit is.

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Interesting point

    Just about everyone who goes up 'there' comments on the beauty of the earth. I just wish I could go up there to experience it myself.

    1. IGotOut

      Re: Interesting point

      Would be funny if one came back and ""Meh...It was ok. Is the new Bond movie out yet?"

  7. Aussie Doc
    Pint

    Wow

    As someone old enough to remember from the beginnings of the space race, I am still in awe of those who make it into space and the tech to send them there.

    Have as many as you can handle, Ms Koch ---->

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