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Record-setting astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth

Christina Koch returned to Earth after logging 328 days in space --- the longest spaceflight in history by a woman --- as a member of Expeditions 59-60-61 on the International Space Station. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA
Christina Koch returned to Earth after logging 328 days in space --- the longest spaceflight in history by a woman --- as a member of Expeditions 59-60-61 on the International Space Station. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

Feb. 6 (UPI) -- NASA astronaut Christina Koch has spent more time in space on a single mission than any other woman. She has been living on the International Space Station since March 14, 2019.

On Thursday, Koch and two others, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, departed from ISS and returned to Earth.

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The trio boarded the Soyuz MS-13 crew spacecraft late Wednesday night. The Soyuz hatch was closed just after 9:30 p.m. ET, and the spacecraft detached from ISS at 12:50 a.m.

Koch, Parmitano and Skvortsov spent the wee hours of Thursday morning descending toward Earth. The three space travelers executed a deorbit burn at 3:18 a.m ET. They then made a parachute-assisted landing at 4:12 a.m. in the desert outside of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. The crew landed at approximately 3:12 p.m. Kazakhstan time.

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Coverage of the Soyuz undocking started shortly after midnight. The Soyuz deorbit burn and landing coverage started at 3 a.m. on Thursday morning.

Koch has been in space for 328 days, the longest single space mission by a woman. Only one U.S. astronaut, Scott Kelly, has spent more consecutive days in space.

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"Koch will have spanned 5,248 orbits of the Earth -- a journey of 139 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 291 round trips to the Moon," according to NASA. "She conducted six spacewalks during her 11 months on orbit, spending 42 hours and 15 minutes outside the station. She witnessed the arrival of a dozen visiting vehicles and the departure of another dozen."

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Late last year, Koch and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir became the first two women to conduct a spacewalk together.

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