CHRISTINA KOCH has the kind of job children dream of. Beginning in 2019, on her first mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the NASA astronaut lived in space for 328 days – the longest time any woman has spent there. During that mission, she 3D printed biological tissues, grew proteins, worked on a dark matter experiment and made up half of the first all-female spacewalk.
Now, as part of the space agency’s ambitious project to send people back to the moon, Koch is getting ready for her next adventure. With it, she will cement her place in the history books. On the Artemis II mission, scheduled for November, Koch will spend 10 days on a trip to circle the moon with three other astronauts. Doing this will probably mean she won’t get to set foot on the lunar surface in the future, however, due to the lifetime safety limits on how long an astronaut can spend in space. Nevertheless, she will become the first woman to orbit Earth’s satellite and set eyes on its mysterious far side.
Artemis II will be the first crewed test of NASA’s colossal Space Launch System rocket and the Orion craft that sits atop it, setting the stage for future missions with the aim of landing humans on the moon for the first time since 1972. Koch spoke with New Scientist about her vital work aboard the ISS, what space smells like and the unique microgravity sports you can play in orbit.
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