By: Eliabel Legrand
On October 18th at around 7:50 am EDT ( Friday ) Christina Koch and Jessica Meir set out on performing a spacewalk, also known as an EVA ( extravehicular activity ). Although this walk was the 221st spacewalk made in support of the space station assembly, it was the first all-female walk made.
The spacewalk was Christina Koch’s fourth EVA and for Jessica Meir it was her first time in space, meaning the spacewalk was new to Jessica- performing such a task made her the 15th woman to have performed a spacewalk and the 14th U.S woman to do so.
(Image credit : NASA )
This milestone is worth noting and celebrating as it was the first all-women spacewalk performed; however, there was an EVA planned earlier this year for March 29th with astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain. The walk still went ahead but, for the safety of the crew, there had to be some changes made due to spacesuit sizes. Anne McClain decided to swap places with Nick Hague so that everyone could wear spacesuits that best fit them. The planned all-female EVA did not go ahead but the actual walk itself still did.
NASA has said that the all-female spacewalk that took place on October 18th was not planned, however, said that the spacewalk was bound to happen eventually due to the increasing number of female astronauts. For example, in Meir and Koch’s class of 2013, 50% of all the astronaut candidates were female.
The first all-female spacewalk is an important milestone worth celebrating. Not only does it mark the progression of women in space, but it also serves as an important learning experience, as NASA also looks forward to sending the first woman and the next man to the moon with the Artemis lunar exploration program.
( Image credit : NASA )
Koch also wore a spacesuit with the same portable life support system as used by Kathryn Sullivan, the first U.S. woman to walk in space on October 11, 1984. The portable life support systems have been extensively serviced over the years and parts have been removed and replaced, but as shown by the serial number “1008”, the PLSS worn by Koch shares a legacy with the unit worn by Kathryn Sullivan 35 years ago.
During the spacewalk, Koch and Meir replaced a battery charge/discharge unit that failed to activate after new lithium-ion batteries were installed on the space station’s exterior on October 11th. The unit is one of many that control the charge put into the batteries that collect energy from the station’s solar panels. Though the battery failure has not affected the station or crew, it does prevent the new batteries from providing increased power for the station.
When asked in an interview about the importance of her mission and spacewalk, Koch said, “In the end, I do think it’s important, and I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing. In the past women haven’t always been at the table. It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space program at a time when all contributions are being accepted when everyone has a role. That can lead in turn to increased chance for success. There are a lot of people who derive motivation from inspiring stories of people who look like them, and I think it’s an important story to tell.”
Throughout history there have been so many pioneers that we can look up to, those who stood up for their rights and others rights too, they worked hard to get to where they are/were, they stayed determined and driven. The NASA program inspires to not only students but people all around the world, showing them that hard work can lead you to amazing places and present you with new opportunities.
Women like Koch and Meir continue to play increasingly important roles at NASA. There have been many women who have played crucial roles throughout history, for example, the three women who were essential to building the human spaceflight program - Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson of the Langley Research Center. Margaret Hamilton led the team that wrote the software for the Apollo moon landings. Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space, she paved the way for other women to follow as well as inspiring many people throughout history. In 2019, more and more women are leading the way in the space industry.
NASA. “Friday’s All-Woman Spacewalk: The Basics.” NASA, 2019, www.nasa.gov/feature/fridays-all-woman-spacewalk-the-basics.
Pearlman, Robert Z. “First All-Female Spacewalk Has Link to First US Woman to Walk in Space.” Space.Com, Space, 18 Oct. 2019, www.space.com/first-all-female-spacewalk-link-to-space-history.html.