328-day mission ends: Nasa astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth after record stay on space station

US astronaut Christina Koch, who led the first all-female spacewalk in 2019, landed in Kazakhstan after a record stay on the International Space Station (ISS), ending a 328-day mission expected to yield new insights into deep-space travel.

The Soyuz MS-13 capsule touched down on the Kazakh desert steppe carrying 41-year-old Christina Koch, European astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.

They will be flown by search and recovery teams to the Karaganda region to begin their journey home.

“I’m just so overwhelmed and happy right now,” Christina Koch said, sitting in a chair wrapped in blankets as she waited to be carried into a medical tent to restore her balance in gravity.

Christina Koch’s mission broke the record for the longest stay in space by a woman, previously held by National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) Peggy Whitson.

She also achieved a gender milestone in a spacewalk with fellow Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir last October that marked the first time two women stepped out of the space station at the same time.

Nasa’s first attempt at an all-female spacewalk in March, 2019, was called off due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size, igniting a gender-equity debate in the space community.

Astronauts on the space station, whose 20th anniversary in low-Earth orbit (LEO) comes later this year, have made 227 maintenance spacewalks, nearly two dozen of which included women astronauts, according to Nasa. Christina Koch and Meir conducted two more spacewalks together in January.