Second NASA Astronaut to Spend Nearly a Year in Space — For Science | 4/18/2019 | Meghan Bartels
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NASA's next long-duration spaceflight mission has already begun, and doctors are excited about what it could teach them.

Astronaut Christina Koch will spend nearly a year aboard the International Space Station, NASA announced on Wednesday (April 17), with her return trip delayed to February 2020. During her 11 months in space, she will monitor how her body responds to the mission, producing much-needed data about how well human bodies can withstand the dangers and hardships of long-term spaceflight.

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So far, that data has been difficult to come by. Standard space station missions last about six and a half months, and only a handful of NASA astronauts have stayed in orbit longer than 200 days in a single spaceflight. That's problematic for an agency that has its sights set on human journeys to Mars — a six- to eight-month flight in each direction — within a decade or two. Koch's long mission in Earth orbit could offer peace of mind about what the impacts of such a journey might be; it could also shed light on how men and women respond differently to spaceflight, NASA officials said.

"It's a very exciting development. I think it's a positive step toward an understanding of how the body adapts in space," Saralyn Mark, a women's health specialist who led a NASA-requested set of reports examining potential sex differences in response to spaceflight, told "Every piece of information you get is valuable, and certainly the longer-duration missions will give us greater insight into what it takes to keep people healthy through missions to the moon and to Mars."

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Although the extended mission came about to accommodate the week-long visit of an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates, NASA was eager to jump on the opportunity of having a crewmember on board the station for an extended stay.

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