CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA astronaut Christina Koch is back on Earth. The North Carolina State University alumna spent nearly 11 months in space -- marking the longest ever spaceflight by a woman.
She, along with Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed safely in Kazakhstan at 4:12 a.m. EST.
Koch wrapped up a 328-day mission on her first flight into space, providing researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman. The study is important since NASA plans to return to the moon under the Artemis program and prepare for the human exploration of Mars.
Koch smiled and gave a thumbs-up as support crew helped her get out of the capsule and placed her in a chair for a quick post-flight check-up alongside her crewmates. Russian space officials said they were in good shape.
Koch--who grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, went to high school at North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, and now lives near the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, Texas, with her husband, Bob--said last month that taking part in the first all-female spacewalk was the highlight of her mission.
Koch said she and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir appreciated that the Oct. 18 spacewalk "could serve as an inspiration for future space explorers."
After preliminary medical evaluations, the crew will be flown by Russian helicopters to the city of Karaganda in Kazakhstan. Koch and Parmitano will then board a NASA plane bound for Cologne, Germany, where Parmitano will be greeted by European space officials before Koch proceeds home to Houston.
Last week, Koch told The Associated Press she couldn't wait to dig into a bowl of chips and salsa when she returns to Earth after her 328-day mission.