Frams of female spacewalk
NASA makes history once again; finally conducts first all-female spacewalk
Back on July 25, 1984, Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya made history when she became the first female to conduct a spacewalk.
More than 35 years later, history was once again made when NASA astronauts and best friends Christina Koch and Jessica Meir left the safe confines of the International Space Station and ventured out into the vacuum of space to perform the space station's 221st spacewalk and first all-female spacewalk.
"We don't want to take too much credit because there have been many other female spacewalkers before us, this is just the first time that there's been two women outside at the same time," Meir said during a call with President Donald Trump while she was on her walk. "For us, this is really just us doing our job ... we recognize that it is a historic achievement, and we do, of course, want to give credit to all those that came before."
They also weren't the only women working this spacewalk. Down in mission control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, space shuttle astronaut Stephanie Wilson served as CAPCOM, or ground-based communicator, for both Koch and Meir, who spent the better part of their Friday morning successfully replacing a faulty battery charge that failed to activate after lithium-ion batteries were installed on the space station's exterior structure on Oct. 11.
"The BCDUs (battery charge/discharge units) regulate the amount of charge put into the batteries that collect energy from the station's solar arrays to power station systems during periods when the station orbits during nighttime passes around Earth," according to NASA's press release. "Though the BCDU failure has not impacted station operations or crew safety, it does prevent the new batteries from providing increased station power."
In total, this was the station's eighth spacewalk this year, which began at 7:38 a.m. ET and lasted a little over seven hours, over 90 minutes longer than originally anticipated.
Back on Earth, thousands of people from all over watched attentively as history was being made. Students and teachers asked NASA questions on Twitter about the walk while others, including politicians and astronauts, sent well-wishes and cheered the astronauts on.
"This is a critical mission for the International Space Station," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a Friday media teleconference before the walk began. "It wasn't something that we planned for, except for maybe a week ago. We've had to change the plans because of some of the challenges on the International Space Station, but I'll tell you, we have the right people doing the right job at the right time."
In Washington D.C., Trump congratulated Koch and Meir on this historic achievement.
"I just want to congratulate you," Trump told the astronauts while they were conducting their walk. "What you do is incredible. You're very brave people and I don't think I'd want to do it."
This also marked Koch's fourth spacewalk and Meir's first as Meir became the 15th woman and 14th American woman to walk in space.
But originally, the plan was to have the first all-female spacewalk months ago.
In March, Koch and NASA astronaut Anne McClain were scheduled to conduct a spacewalk together, what would have been then, the first all-female spacewalk. But both Koch and McClain required a medium-sized suit, of which there was only one that was readily available, forcing McClain to step down and be replaced by NASA astronaut Nick Hague instead.
Now, with two women onboard the ISS once again, NASA made sure to have enough medium-sized suits available to avoid this problem in the future.
"This honors women who came before us and didn't get the same opportunities that we had," NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson said on NASA TV during the walk. "I think we're all just looking forward to it being normal."
As the space agency prepares to send American astronauts once again to the moon through the Artemis program and eventually on to Mars, seeing more women in space and conducting spacewalks might very well be the new norm, according to Bridenstine.
"We could very well see the first person on Mars be a woman," Bridenstine said. "Women have stepped up and done amazing work on behalf of our country. There's more progress to be made, but we're making it."
"When it comes to Artemis, you probably saw the spacesuit rollout that we did. We are really focused on making sure that the spacesuits are available for everyone," he said.
All in all, only 228 people have walked in space. The first was cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, who died just last week. When it comes to the U.S., Ed White was the first American to conduct a spacewalk back in 1965 during the Gemini program. It would take another 19 years before Kathryn Sullivan performed her own walk, marking the first time an American woman walked in space.
But times are changing to be more inclusive to women, according to NASA. Both Koch and Meir, for instance, were selected as astronaut candidates in 2013 as part of the first class where 50% of the selected were women.
In 1978 when NASA introduced the first six female astronauts, they made up only 10% of the active astronaut corps. Forty years after that selection, women now make up 34% of active astronauts at NASA, according to the space agency.
Still, NASA — and the rest of the world — can do better.
"I think it's also important to note that there are physical attributes of women that make them better at spaceflight than men," Bridenstine said. "For example, cranial pressure for women seems to be less than that of men when you're in a microgravity environment for long periods of time ... so there are biological benefits that women have that men do not have to microgravity spaceflight. So it's important to note that when we do different missions, it's going to take all of America to do it."
Quelle: Florida Today