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NASA Declares Its First-ever All-Female Spacewalk, Again!

After scrapping the first-ever all-female spacewalk in March 2019, NASA has announced that it is back on! On 4 October, Friday, the aeronautics and aerospace research centre announced that they have scheduled another attempt with astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir for 21 October.

The announcement was made during the briefing by the agency previewing the 10 upcoming spacewalks by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) over the next three months.

The initial attempt at an all-female spacewalk was dismissed due to the unavailability of spacesuits for the astronauts. The astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are currently living on the ISS, and on 21 October, they will make history - 'the first time that only women have donned spacesuits to perform work on the outside of a spacecraft' [1] .

The first attempt of the spacewalk was planned to be carried out by Koch and her then-crew mate Anne McClain but was put on hold when NASA announced that McClain would no longer be working with Koch and would be replaced by her male colleague, Nick Hague.

Lack Of Spacesuit Scrapped The First Trip

NASA's announcement citing the lack of spacesuits for their female astronauts caused a worldwide uproar, with people criticising the agency's haphazard move that wrecked the giant leap for womankind.

Anne McClain had to give up her place to a male colleague because her assumption on donning an L size spacesuit was amiss, as size M seemed to be a safer and efficient option (and fit). Stephanie Schierholz, a NASA spokeswoman said, "Anne trained in 'M' and 'L' and thought she could use a large but decided after [last] Friday's spacewalk, a medium fits better. In this case, it's easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit" [2] .

But this did not sit well with space-science enthusiasts and netizens, who suggested that an all-female spacewalk was overdue. And pointed out that, the lack of suits sized for women on the ISS was not a valid reason.

Some supported the decision pointing out the importance of the safety of the astronauts, however, did agree that a milestone moment on women's space exploration had been temporized.

McClain was quoted saying, "I learned during the first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso - essentially the shirt of the spacesuit - fits me best". McClain became the 13th woman to carry out a spacewalk during her spacewalk last week [3] .

The All-female Spacewalk To Take Place On 21 October 2019

This time, NASA is all set! The Koch-Meir pair's history-making spacewalk is one of 10 spacewalks that NASA has planned for the rest of the year. Megan McArthur, NASA's deputy chief astronaut said during the conference, "We have 10 now coming up really fast, so it's kind of a spacewalk bonanza."

The first of the 10 spacewalks occurred on Sunday, 6 October and the next is scheduled for Friday 11 October [4] .

"What we're doing now shows all of the work that went in for the decades prior, all of the women that worked to get us where we are today", Jessica Meir said during an interview on the space station.

Christina Koch agreed to Meir, stating that, "there are a lot of people that derive motivation from inspiring stories from people that look like them and I think it's an important aspect of the story to tell."

The Koch-Meir pair have trained together for the last six years [5] .

Only 11% Of Spacewalkers Are Female

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly to space, in 1963 and Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya was the first woman to perform a spacewalk, in 1984. And more interestingly, more than 500 people have been into space, but only 11% have been women [4] [5] .

However, there is a shift in the trend and hopefully, the Koch-Meir pair will be just the first of many to come.

View Article References
  1. [1] Strickland, A. (2019, October 4). The first all-female spacewalk is scheduled for this month. CNN.
  2. [2] NA. (2019, October 7). First all-female spacewalk to happen this month. Femina.
  3. [3] Weitering, H. (2019, October 5). The 1st All-Female Spacewalk Is Back on As NASA Gears Up for 10-EVA Marathon.
  4. [4] Padilla, M. (2019, October 5). First All-Female Spacewalk Is Back On, NASA Says. The New York Times.
  5. [5] Sandler, R. (2019, October 7). After Uproar, Historic All-Female Spacewalk Is Back On, NASA Says. Forbes
Read more about: nasa female astronauts astronauts
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