NASA has announced that the first all-female spacewalk is set to take place later this month following a lengthy six-month delay.
Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will make the historic walk on 21st October to plug in new batteries. The pair are tasked with installing new lithium-ion batteries to better generate power for the station.
The station is run on solar power energy, but batteries are used when it is in darkness and is not getting power from the sun.
This will be the fourth of 10 scheduled spacewalks for the next three months, which NASA says could set a record pace of complex spacewalks since the station was completed in 2011. The first walk, scheduled to take place this Sunday, will see Koch and a male colleague venture outside the International Space Station.
“I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing and in the past, women haven’t always been at the table,” Koch said on NASA TV. “And it’s wonderful to be contributing to the human spaceflight program at a time when all contributions are being accepted.”
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The original all-female spacewalk had to be delayed as NASA had failed to have a second medium-sized spacesuit ready. Koch was meant to make the first walk on 29th March along with Anne McClain. However, this had to be cancelled since both women required a medium-size torso component and only one was available.
McClain, a decorated NASA astronaut whose domestic dispute is believed to be the first criminal case in space, returned to Earth in June. The walk did take place, but it was Koch and her fellow astronaut Nick Hague who completed the six-hour mission.
Megan McArthur, NASA’s deputy chief astronaut says the first-female spacewalk will be a milestone worth celebrating.
Koch, who arrived at the space station in March and is scheduled to remain in orbit until February, is due to set a new record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. This achievement will see her surpass Peggy Whitson, who in April became the American with the most overall space-time.
“It’s an honour to follow in Peggy’s footsteps,” Koch said. “I hope that me being up here and giving my best every day is a way for me to say thank you to people like her, who not only paved the way through their examples but actively reached out to make sure we could be successful.”
Her mission will enable researchers to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman’s body, which will help support future missions to the moon and Mars, according to NASA.