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NC Astronaut Christina Koch Returns To Earth After Record 328 Days In Space

Astronaut Christina Koch is helped off her capsule after it lands in Kazakhstan.

Astronaut Christina Koch returned to Earth on Thursday after 328 days in space, a record for the longest spaceflight for a woman.

Koch, who grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and attended North Carolina State University, smiled and gave a thumbs-up as she was carried out of the capsule that landed in Kazakhstan, along with two International Space Station crewmates.

A week ago, Koch told The Associated Press she was most looking forward to eating salsa and chips – she has not been allowed to eat anything crunchy in space lest crumbs float away and clog equipment -- and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico when she returned. She turned 41 on Jan. 29 and celebrated by playing Scrabble with crewmates.

Koch and fellow astronaut Jessica Meir embarked on the first all-female spacewalk Oct. 18 – a seven-month delay after NASA learned it did not have enough appropriately sized spacesuits for both women.

Koch’s 328-day mission is the second-longest by an American, short of Scott Kelly’s flight by 12 days.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper offered his congratulations on Facebook.

On Twitter, Koch said she would most miss “The exquisite beauty of both the planet Earth and this marvel that its amazing people created.”