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Crew prepare to depart the International Space Station

U.S. astronaut Christina Koch, who led the first all-female spacewalk in 2019, was due to return to Earth on Thursday (February 06) after a record stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS), capping a busy mission that could yield key insights into deep-space travel.

Koch, 41, climbed into a Russian Soyuz capsule docked at the station with two other returning crew members on Wednesday (February 05) after logging 328 days on the orbiting laboratory.

If all goes according to plan, the capsule will parachute to a safe landing on the desert steppe of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 4:12 a.m. EST (09:12 GMT), carrying Koch, European astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.

Koch’s mission broke the record for the longest continuous stay in space by a woman, previously held by NASA’s Peggy Whitson.

She also achieved a gender milestone in a relatively routine spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir last October that marked the first time two women stepped out of the space station at the same time.

(Production: Bob Mezan)

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