Christina Koch may have arrived on Earth last night, but the journey from the moon to the planet was a long one — one that saw her leave behind the sweltering heat and cramped quarters of the space station to travel to higher and higher space. With one wrench of the shuttle’s hatch closed, the mother of three children and a Nobel Prize-winning computer scientist and Stanford professor made her way through an airlock and then an escape hatch as the shuttle soars over the Pacific in a final farewell to its record-setting mission.
NASA’s space shuttle has become the oldest space plane in its fleet — an association that should be enough to make space-travelers shy away from returning to the launch pad. But Koch made an impassioned case for sending back up human spaceflights, citing safer, affordable plans and the human value of space. She told The New York Times, “That’s why we need to come back to space,” and soon.
That now may be taking shape. Nasa is launching a new commercial spacecraft next month called the Space Launch System that NASA hopes will eventually put astronauts on the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. NASA officials told The Times that Koch’s shuttle was in line to be used to send the first two or three people to the station.