HOUSTON (KXAN) — After spending almost a year in space, the first things that astronaut Christina Koch wanted to do upon her return to Earth were reunite with her dog and take a family trip to the beach.
Koch revealed that she’s now gotten to do both of those things while talking to reporters from NASA headquarters in Houston Wednesday afternoon about her historic mission to space.
“After 328 days in space, the first six days back on Earth were full of just as much wonder and excitement,” Koch said, smiling. “We all live on a great planet, and it’s nice to be back.”
A capsule carrying Koch and two other crew members from the International Space Station landed in Kazakhstan on Feb. 6.
She broke the record for the longest continuous stay in space by a woman, which was previously held by NASA’s Peggy Whitson. She also now holds the record for the second-longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.
She achieved another gender milestone in October 2019 when she and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir became the first two women to do a spacewalk at the space station.
Koch said Wednesday she was unaware at the time of the historic nature of these different accomplishments, but she hopes they inspire young people.
“I’ve always said about any record that you set that my biggest hope is that it’s exceeded as soon as possible,” Koch said. “That means we’re pushing the boundaries. More people are living up to their dreams and to their potential, so my main message to anyone who has a dream is to follow your passions, be true to yourself, do what you love and live the life you imagined for yourself.”
She told reporters that the International Space Station started feeling like home after about three months up there.
“I jokingly say that I forgot I was floating until a new crew would come, and they would be so excited about floating,” Koch said. “I would think, ‘Oh, I guess we are floating, aren’t we?’“
Koch implored people to challenge themselves after they hear about her realizing her dream to go to space.
“Do what scares you,” she said. “Do the things that might feel like they’re just out of your reach. They’re intriguing you. They’re drawing you in, but you don’t know for sure if you can do it. Go after that thing.
“Not only will you maximally impact the world,” she added. “But you’ll get the most personal fulfillment out of it and use that as a springboard to keep doing the same thing.”
The touchdown on Feb. 6 also marked the return of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russia’s Alexander Skvortsov.