Record-setting female astronaut set to return to Earth after nearly a year in space

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

Nasa astronaut Christina Koch will return to Earth this week after spending 328 days in space – more than any woman before her.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Koch said it was only missing her family that was finally bringing her back home.

She is expected to return to Earth on Thursday.

Ms Koch’s work during her record-setting mission included more than 210 investigations, helping advance Nasa’s goals to return humans to the Moon and prepare for human exploration of Mars.

During her spaceflight, Ms Koch completed 5,248 orbits of Earth and a journey of 139 million miles - roughly the equivalent of 291 trips to the Moon and back.

Her time in Space is not the only record Ms Koch has broken, completing the first all-female Space walk in October alongside Jessica Meir.

However, it is not just Ms Koch's working breaking down gender barriers that is significant, Nasa scientist Bryan Dansberry told ITV News, but also the data the 41-year-old was able to collect.

"She's been involved in conducting over 200 experiments, but probably the most important thing is all the data we've been able to take on her - on her body and how it has reacted during that time up there.

"As we look forward to going on to the Moon... and eventually on to Mars, we really have to understand the impacts on the human body.

"You need both women, you need both men."

Scientists in the UK have also hailed Ms Koch's work as “extremely important”.

Dr Francisco Diego, a senior teaching fellow at the department of physics and astronomy at University College London, led the praise.

“The record is very important, we need to gain experience in long-term duration in space, in low gravity, because that’s what will happen when we go beyond the moon,” he told ITV News.

“We are talking months and months in space, in isolation.

“Also the psychological point of this is extremely important, going to mars… once you go to Mars the Earth becomes like a star and Mars is another star.

“You are in the middle of those stars, when you are in that middle section - which is several months - I wonder what the feeling is… it’s the most isolated place in human history probably.”

He hailed Ms Koch as an “inspiration” who could encourage a new generation of women in space.