Astronauts Make History with 1st-ever All-Women Spacewalk
Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA concluded their spacewalk, the first with only women. During the 7-hour, 17-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts completed the replacement a failed power charging component, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). The BCDU regulates the charge to the batteries that collect and distribute solar power to the orbiting lab’s systems. Mission control activated the newly installed BCDU and reported it is operating properly.
The astronauts were also able to accomplish some get-ahead tasks including installation of a stanchion on the Columbus module for support of a new external ESA (European Space Agency) payload platform called Bartolomeo scheduled for launch to the station in 2020.
It was the eighth spacewalk outside the station this year. Space station crew members have now conducted 221 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have spent a total of 57 days, 20 hours, and 29 minutes working outside the station.
It was the first spacewalk for Meir and the fourth for Koch, who now has spent a total of 27 hours and 48 minutes spacewalking. It is the first spaceflight for both women, who were selected in the 2013 astronaut class that had equal numbers of women and men. Koch arrived to the orbiting laboratory in March 2019 and will remain in space for an extended duration mission of 11 months to provide researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman to prepare for human missions to the Moon and Mars.
Meir became the 15th woman to spacewalk, and the 14th U.S. woman. It was the 43rd spacewalk to include a woman. Women have been performing spacewalks since 1984, when Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya spacewalked in July and NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan spacewalked in October.
The faulty BCDU is due to return to Earth on the next SpaceX Dragon resupply ship for inspection. Station managers will reschedule the three battery replacement spacewalks for a future date. In the meantime, the five planned spacewalks to repair a cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, are still on the calendar for November and December.
Two female astronauts have accomplished something no women have done before.
U.S. astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir stepped outside the International Space Station Friday morning, the first time in history that two women have done a spacewalk together.
Koch and Meir were expected to spend more than five hours outside the space station to replace a failed power controller, but extended their spacewalk to "accomplish some get-ahead tasks on the space station," according to NASA.
The astronauts spoke with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during the spacewalk.
The conversation marked the first time since the 1969 moon landing that a sitting president spoke directly to astronauts who were physically outside of a spacecraft in space, according to the White House.
Trump called the two astronauts “very brave people” for their service on the space station.
“I don’t think I want to do it. I must tell you that. But you are amazing people,” the president said, later adding, “You’re very brave, brilliant women.”
Meir told the president she and Koch saw the spacewalk as "just us doing our job."
"It's something we've been training for six years," she said. "For us, it's just coming out here and doing our job today. We were the crew that was tasked with this assignment."
"At the same time, we recognize that it is a historic achievement and we do of course want to give credit for all those who came before us," Meir added. "There has been a long line of female scientists, explorers, engineers and astronauts and we have followed in their footsteps to get us where we are today."
Meir said she hopes she and Koch provide inspiration "to everybody, not only women."
"To everybody that has a dream, that has a big dream and that is willing to work hard to make that dream come true, something that all of us that have made our way up here have done all throughout our lives," she said. "And I can tell you, the hard work certainly did pay off."
The remaining four astronauts aboard the International Space Station, all men, will stay inside while Koch and Meir complete their work.
People took to social media Friday to celebrate "HERstory in the making," as NASA is calling the history-making event.