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Record-breaking astronaut Christina Koch talks space records and more

It's been a long trip for NASA astronaut Christina Koch. This week, the record-breaking astronaut will return to Earth after living and working in space for 328 days — the longest single spaceflight made by a woman

Today (Feb. 4), Koch spoke to the media about her space experience, including what it means to have broken a spaceflight record and made history on the first all-female spacewalk with her colleague, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, last October. 

"For me," Koch told NBC News from the International Space Station, "it's all about the honor that I feel to follow in the footsteps of my heroes." Koch added that, she also looks at these milestones that she's reached for women in spaceflight "as an opportunity to hopefully inspire the next generation of explorers."

Koch launched to the space station on March 14, 2019 and will return to Earth early Thursday (Feb. 6) on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft alongside crew mates Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. 

Video: Peggy Whitson sends zero-G congrats to Christina Koch's record
Women in space - A Gallery of firsts

NASA astronaut Christina Koch demonstrates microgravity while chatting with the media from aboard the International Space Station on Feb. 4, 2020. (Image credit: NASA/YouTube)

A couple of the media outlets asked if she thought that the milestones she reached in space were as big of a deal as we made them out to be on Earth, and whether or not it mattered that she was a woman setting those records. 

"I definitely look forward to a time when demographics are transparent and we don't have any underrepresented groups," Koch said. But, she added, "highlighting this story helps us to move towards a world where everyone who has a dream has to work equally hard to achieve that dream."

Related: The amazing spacewalks of Expedition 61 in photos

While Koch is looking to the future, she also had some wisdom so share about her time spent in space. 

Koch shared that, in addition to the moment she first entered the hatch and saw the space station, her favorite moment in space was on that first spacewalk with Meir. (The two have since performed two more spacewalks together.)

There was a moment, Koch said, just after she and Meir had first left the station and were holding onto a handrail, when they caught each other's eye. They had a moment of recognition for what they were accomplishing, she said.

Koch also pointed to how amazing it was when, while riding the Canadarm2 robotic arm during the spacewalk, she was able to take a look at Earth down below.

Previously, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson set the record for the single longest space mission by a woman, which was set at 289 days, 5 hours and 1 minute. Koch officially broke this record on Dec. 28. 

Following the historic first all-female spacewalk made by Koch and Meir, the two continued on to complete both the second and third all-female spacewalks in history.

Related: The International Space Station's Expedition 61 mission in pictures

Following almost a year setting these records and working tirelessly in space, "I'm definitely looking forward to being on the same planet as everybody else pretty soon," Koch told NBC News about her return to Earth. Following this mission, which has been chock-full of historic moments and important scientific research, Koch shared that she is excited to continue her career with NASA.

"You never know," she said. "Maybe another spaceflight's in my future."

NASA plans to first return humans to the moon with the Artemis program before landing the first humans on Mars, Koch told Westwood One Radio Network that she would absolutely accept an offer to fly on a crewed mission to Mars in the future. 

"If that were something that were offered to me it would absolutely be my honor," she said. 

Visit Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 5 and 6) for complete coverage of Koch's return to Earth. NASA's webcasts will begin Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT) with Soyuz MS-13 hatch closure, then resume for undocking at 12:15 a.m. EST (0515 GMT) and at 3 a.m. EST (0800 GMT) for landing.

The Soyuz landing in the remote steppes of Kazakhstan is scheduled for 4:14 a.m. EST (0914 GMT).

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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Chelsea Gohd

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.