History was made on 18 October 2019 when two NASA astronauts, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, completed the first ever all-female spacewalk.
Originally planned to take place on 21 October, the space walk was intended to be one of a series of five trips to replace old batteries outside of the International Space Station (ISS).
After completion of two successful excursions, the discovery of a faulty battery discharge unit located at the Port 6 truss structure resulted in Koch and Meir’s recruitment to restore power to the space station. The astronauts began the excursion at 11:38 GMT (07:38 EDT) and spent seven hours outside of the ISS, a standard length of time for NASA spacewalks. The first woman in history to conduct a spacewalk was the Russian astronaut Svetlana Savitskaya in 1984, 20 years after Alexei Leonov, who conducted the first human spacewalk, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 85.
In total, 227 astronauts have left their spacecraft for an excursion of some sort, and only 14 were women. In all spacewalks involving female astronauts, a male counterpart has been present.
Although the first all-female ‘extra-vehicular activity’ was planned for March of this year, with Koch as one of those involved, the spacewalk did not go ahead due to spacesuit issues. The historic event was therefore postponed until this month.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris tweeted: “For the first time in our nation’s history, an all-female crew walked in space today. It’s more than historic – it’s a reminder for women, even the sky doesn’t have to be the limit.”
Koch, the electrical engineer, and Meir, who has a doctorate in marine biology, acknowledged the significance of their position as female astronauts when interviewed before their mission. As Meir said, “What we’re doing now shows all of the work that went in for the decades prior, all of the women that worked to get us where we are today.”