When two American astronauts leave the International Space Station on Friday morning to replace a power controller, this will be a much anticipated milestone. Astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will have taken the first all-female spacewalk.
Such a walk was to take place in March, but was postponed because NASA did not have two suitcases of corresponding size. This triggered an outcry – and a parody of "Saturday Night Live" – about the legacy of sexism in space programming.
More recently, Ms. Meir and Ms. Koch had planned to install lithium-ion batteries on October 21
Friday's Space Walk should be the seventh this year. By the end of December, NASA expects more spacewalks than ever before in a single year since 2010. The timetable, however, depends on what the agency finds out about the failure of the performance controller.
Here's what happened in March.
Ms. Koch was to undertake a spacewalk on March 29 with Anne McClain (19459010), an excellent astronaut and lieutenant-colonel in the army.
However, both women needed mid-sized torso components for the spacewalk and only one was available. Ms. McClain said she originally thought she would be able to work in a larger size. After taking a medium-sized space walk with her colleague Nick Hague (19459011) on March 22, she found it fit better. There was not enough time to properly configure a second mid-sized torso component, and Ms. McClain recommended that Mr. Hague be sent to her place.
For some observers, the change highlighted the challenges facing women in the space program and in other areas where equipment was traditionally developed for men. Women were not admitted to the astronaut program until 1978, and an American woman did not go into space until 1983 when Sally Ride did so. (Two Soviet women preceded her.) On October 11, 1984, Kathryn D. Sullivan became the first American to undertake a spacewalk.
wife. McClain returned to Earth in June after 204 days in space, including two space walks with male colleagues totaling 13 hours and 8 minutes. (Ms. McClain's domestic issues also hit the headlines this summer after she was accused of accessing her estranged wife's bank account from space, denying any wrongdoing.)
This is the current cast
. Meir and Ms. Koch, the astronauts on the spacewalk on Friday, were both part of NASA's 2013 astronaut training class. The eight-headed class was the first to include the same number of men and women. (Mr. Hague and Mrs. McClain also belonged to this class.)
Wife. Meir grew up after her official NASA biography in Caribou, Me. She holds a masters degree from the International Space University near Strasbourg, France, and a doctoral degree in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. She has researched the human physiology of Lockheed Martin and worked as an aquanaut in an underwater habitat.
wife. Meir arrived at the International Space Station at the end of September and released photos of happy hugs as she greeted her colleagues. The spacewalk on Friday was her first.
wife. The Michigan-born chef grew up in Jacksonville, New Mexico and most recently lived in Livingston, Montana, according to her official biography (19459015). She holds a master's degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University. Prior to becoming an astronaut, she worked for NASA and the United States Antarctic Program on instrumentation in space exploration and remote scientific field engineering.
She is well on her way to breaking the record for a woman's longest single-space flight, with an estimated 328 days in space, when she returns to Earth as planned in February. The excursion on Friday was to be her fourth spacewalk.
In an interview with NASA TV this month, Ms. Koch was asked if she was worried that her accomplishments were often talked about in terms of gender or whether it was important for her to mark milestones.
"I've been thinking and thinking about that a lot," she said. "And in the end, I think it's important and I think it's important because what we do is historical in nature and because in the past, women were not always at the table."
Koch said it was "wonderful" to be part of the space program, "if all the contributions are accepted, if everyone plays a role, and this in turn can lead to an increased chance of success." "It is an important aspect of the story to be told must "because many people derive their motivation from inspirational stories of people who look like them.
wife. Meir made a similar sound and appreciated the work of the women standing in front of them. (She was supposed to be the 15th woman to make a spacewalk, and all but one of her predecessors was American.)
"We do not even think about it daily," she said about sex. We're part of the team. "
What suits do they wear?
"the suit has three upper body sizes, on board the International Space Station, which are configured individually for each astronaut considering more than 80 different body dimensions." eight sizes of customizable elbows, over 65 sizes of gloves, two sizes of adjustable waist, five sizes of adjustable knees, and a variety of padding options for just about any body part, "she wrote.
Both women had mid-sized fuselage components for the spacewalk on Friday, and the two male spacewalkers aboard the station also use this size, Ms. Schierholz said.
The suits were originally designed more than 40 years ago. However, NASA is developing new ones as part of its Artemis program, which aims to bring the first woman and man to the moon by 2024 – and then send astronauts to Mars.
NASA officials unveiled two new space suit prototypes Tuesday at the agency's headquarters in Washington. The new suits offer advanced communication features and protect astronauts from extreme space conditions while making them easier to move around.
Jacey Fortin contributed to the coverage.