But Koch graduated from NASA's 2013 class of astronauts that was 50 percent women. NASA hopes that Koch's stay on the ISS will give its scientists more data on the potential health effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body. Koch will break the record of 288 days for the longest single spaceflight by a woman at the end of December.
The overall NASA record of 340 days, set in 2016, is held by astronaut Scott Kelly in an experiment to compare his physical and mental health to his identical twin Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth.
"I have known that this was a possibility for a long time and it's truly a dream come true to know that I can continue to work on the program that I valued so highly my whole life", she continued. "Privileged to contribute my best every single day of it".
Koch will be joined by NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov on July 20, the official NASA blog states. That approaches but does not quite break Scott Kelly's 340 day USA record.
The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with Cygnus resupply spacecraft onboard, is seen just after sunrise on Pad-0A, Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
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"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. The spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket about nine minutes after the blastoff, flying on its way to the space station, according to NASA's live broadcast.
Koch, 40, arrived on the ISS on March 14 with two other crew members - an American and a Russian - for what was initially planned to be a six-month mission.
Koch is now a part of the Expedition 59 and 60 crew that launched to the International Space Station in March 2019. The new schedule will also allow NASA to dedicate more time to the research aboard the station.
Morgan, Meir, and Skripochka are scheduled to touch down in spring 2020.