STORIES

Christina Koch Lands on Earth, and Crosses a Threshold for Women in Space

The astronaut Christina Koch took a selfie on a spacewalk in October.

She conducted research in microgravity...

She conducted research in microgravity on Mizuna mustard greens, examining the role of gravity and space on whole-plant health, cellular development and tissue growth. Perhaps most importantly, she also looked at how growing plants affects human community. Humans bond over food, and being able to grow food in space could be important to social dynamics during future long-duration crewed missions to the moon or Mars.

During research with the stations’ Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) Chamber, Ms. Koch studied the behavior of fire in space. Her work could help spacecraft use fuel more efficiently and help with preventing fires. On Earth, this knowledge can also be applied to reducing combustion pollutants.

And Ms. Koch worked with the Cold Atom Laboratory, in which clouds of atoms are chilled to about one ten-billionth of a degree above absolute zero and become nearly motionless, so scientists can study behaviors and quantum characteristics. Kidney health, Earth observations, the International Space Station Agricultural Camera, the Capillary Structures experiment, the Microgravity Crystals experiment, the BioFabrication Facility, CubeSats … all of this effort, eclipsed by two records.

But those records are important because they signal a change.

We note the first all-female spacewalk because it is a threshold. Ms. Koch and Ms. Meir also participated in the second and third all-female spacewalks. There will be others, and they will not be noted, because the threshold we’ve crossed leads us into a future where women in space are not the exception.[1]

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