(NEW YORK) — Last month, NASA astronaut Christina Koch was less than a week away from a historic all-women spacewalk before a spacesuit availability problem nixed that plan, but on Wednesday the space agency announced its intentions to give Koch a different piece of history. This one will just take a lot longer.
NASA announced that Koch — who took off for the International Space Station on March 14, or Pi Day — will stay in space through February 2020. The Michigan native and former electrical engineer for the agency spoke to ABC News’ David Kerley exclusively.
“I still have the grin on my face that won’t seem to go away, just that I’m here every day,” she said in an interview from the International Space Station. “I don’t necessarily count numbers or days I just think about doing my best every day.”
Koch is a rookie astronaut and, if all goes as planned, will surpass Peggy Whitson’s single spaceflight record for a female of 288 days in space on Dec. 28. She previously spent months at the poles of the Earth working on firefighting and search and rescue teams, in addition to doing scientific field work. She’s also worked as an electrical engineer in labs at the Johns Hopkins University and NASA.
She completed her spacewalk earlier this month without fellow astronaut Anne McClain, who began her International Space Station stay in December. McClain had completed her first spacewalk on March 22 and discovered then that she needed a “medium-size hard upper torso,” or the shirt of the spacesuit, according to NASA.
That is apparently the same size worn by Koch and NASA has a limited availability of spacewalking spacesuits. There is only one medium-size top on the space station.
Koch says exploring new frontiers — whether that is the North Pole or space — is critical to the betterment of the earth.
“The perspective that you gain up here looking down on earth, and seeing a world without borders representing all of humanity, up here in a global effort to explore and to do science on the frontiers. That actually benefits the earth that we’re looking down on,” she told Kerley.
“My primary message is to challenge yourself to reach farther than you think you can go,” Koch said. “I think when we achieve a dream that’s just outside of what we thought was in our reach, it has magnifying effects both for ourselves and what we can then strive to do in the future, but also for the world around us.”
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