NASA astronaut Christina Koch joined the crew aboard the International Space Station in March, and on Wednesday, NASA announced plans to extend her space mission until February 2020.
Not only will the extension make Koch just the second astronaut to spend nearly a year in space and earn her the record for longest space stay by a woman — but the data from her trip could help humanity reach Mars.
In total, Koch will spend 328 days in space. That’s just shy of Scott Kelly’s record 340-days-long space mission, which yielded incredibly valuable data regarding the impact of longterm spaceflight on the human body.
That’s important because we have a lot to learn about how longterm spaceflight affects humans before we can send astronauts to Mars. Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist of NASA’s Human Research Program, thinks Koch’s mission will help us get there.
“NASA is looking to build on what we have learned with additional astronauts in space for more than 250 days,” she said in a news release. “Christina’s extended mission will provide additional data for NASA’s Human Research Program and continue to support future missions to the Moon and Mars.”
READ MORE: NASA Announces First Flight, Record-Setting Mission [NASA]
More on Scott Kelly: NASA: Genetic Changes Caused by Space Travel Are Temporary