NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are conducting the first-ever all-female spacewalk in history today (Oct. 18). The duo switched their spacesuits to battery power at 7:38 a.m. ET and entered the vacuum of space to replace a failed power controller.
The spacewalk is expected to last about five-and-a-half hours. NASA is streaming coverage of the important space milestone live on NASA TV.
Making Space History (Finally)
It took a little juggling for the landmark foray into space to finally kick-off. NASA initially planned for the event to take place back in March. However, ISS crew members traded places on that spacewalk due to a shortage of properly-fitting spacesuits. Recently, the space agency had rescheduled the event for Oct. 21.
However, earlier this week, NASA pushed the EVA forward due to an equipment failure on the station.
During today’s event, Koch is functioning as extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1). She’s wearing the spacesuit with the red stripes. Meanwhile, Meir is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2). She is wearing a suit with no stripes.
Koch and Meir’s spacewalk marks the 221st EVA in the history of space exploration. It is the first spacewalk for Meir, the fourth spacewalk for Koch, and the first-ever performed by two women.
Furthermore, Meir is the 15th female overall and the 14th female American astronaut to walk in space.
Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya was the first woman to walk in space in 1984. American astronaut Kathryn Sullivan followed closely after, becoming the first U.S. female to venture into the vacuum of space in October 1984.
According to The Washington Post, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke of the impact of today’s EVA in a media conference earlier this morning. He said, “Today’s spacewalk is another milestone toward making space more available to everyone.”
In watching the spacewalk start at NASA’s Space Operations Headquarters, Bridenstine also noted that of the 15 women who have conducted spacewalks, 14 of them are American. He told the group at NSOH, “So we’re leading the way on this.”
ABC News shared a video of the two women exiting the ISS on Twitter.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 18, 2019
Who Are Christina Koch and Jessica Meir?
Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are both members of NASA’s 2013 astronaut class and are serving on their first spaceflight.
Koch hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan. According to her NASA bio, Koch graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Physics and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering.
She arrived at the ISS on March 14. She has worked on Expeditions 59 and 60 aboard the station and will also work as part of Expedition 61. In total, she’ll reside at the station for 11 months. This duration will set a record for the longest single spaceflight for a woman. Overall, Koch is slated to live in space for a total of 328 days.
Jessica Meir is from Caribou, Maine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Brown University, a Master of Science in Space Studies from the International Space University, and a Doctorate in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UCSD).
She reportedly did physiology research at Lockheed Martin’s Human Research Facility from 2000 to 2003. Meir arrived at the ISS on Sept. 29 and will work as an Expedition 61 and 62 crew member.
Meir shared her excitement on Twitter about making a “childhood dream come true” when she entered the ISS.
This is how it feels when in addition to your childhood dream being fulfilled by arriving to @Space_Station, you’re greeted by your Astro-brothers and sisters on the other side of the hatch. pic.twitter.com/mexDxMdWhd
— Jessica Meir (@Astro_Jessica) September 29, 2019
The job outside of the floating laboratory is grueling work. NASA TV commentators noted Koch and Meir would be mentally and physically “exhausted” after completing their assignment.
#AllWomanSpacewalk is Trending on Twitter
As Meir and Koch continue making HERstory in space, the hashtag #AllWomanSpacewalk is trending on Twitter.
NASA Spacewalk Coordinator Stephanie Wilson is communicating with the ladies on the ground from Mission Control Center in Houston. NASA introduced Wilson on the platform.
Who's talking to the astronauts from Mission Control during today's #AllWomanSpacewalk? That's astronaut Stephanie Wilson, who has spent 42 days in space over 3 spaceflights! https://t.co/ed1NhscjId pic.twitter.com/AKK3di55Id
— NASA (@NASA) October 18, 2019
The female space explorers are also receiving streams of encouragement and support from people all over the world.
Johnson Space Center shared photos of the team guiding the effort inside Mission Control.
What's going on inside Mission Control during the #AllWomanSpacewalk? Flight controllers are monitoring various systems built into @Astro_Christina & @Astro_Jessica's spacesuits, like oxygen & water, while relaying tasks to the spacewalkers & controlling systems on the station. pic.twitter.com/RBjgcW4Exx
— Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) October 18, 2019
Members of Congress are sharing messages of support, including Rep. (D-OH) Marcia Fudge.
— Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (@RepMarciaFudge) October 18, 2019
Congresswoman Julia Brownley tweeted her congratulations.
— Congresswoman Julia Brownley (@RepBrownley) October 18, 2019
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also celebrated the occasion.
.@NASA has captured the imaginations of the world for generations. Congratulations to @Astro_Christina & @Astro_Jessica for leaving their mark on history with today’s #AllWomanSpacewalk. You are an inspiration to women & girls across America. https://t.co/HQZIDUpBNZ
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) October 18, 2019
Overall, messages continue to stream in from people all over the world who are proud to watch this historic moment for women in space unfold. Koch and Meir’s landmark achievement undoubtedly inspires women of all ages to push confidently toward their own career goals. It also sets the stage for NASA to land the first woman and the next man on the moon in the Artemis mission.