On 18 October, NASA astronauts will carry out the 221st spacewalk from the International Space Station. While the spacewalk itself is a routine affair, both astronauts on the spacewalk are women for the first time in the history of spaceflight.
Assuming all goes to plan, NASA crew members Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will leave the interior of the International Space Station on Friday morning at 7:50 AM ET to replace faulty equipment on the craft’s exterior.
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Koch, who arrived on the ISS in March, has already performed three space walks, or extravehicular activities (EVAs). Meir was launched to the station just a few weeks ago, on September 25. Friday’s EVA will mark her first time outside the ISS.
The first all-female space walk was originally scheduled to take place in March, and would have included Koch and fellow NASA astronaut Anne McClain, who returned to Earth in June. But NASA canceled the pairing when only one of the two medium-sized spacesuits onboard was made ready.
McClain had trained in both the large and medium sized suits on the ground, and found both to be comfortable, so NASA planned to have her wear the larger suit while giving the medium to Koch. But when McClain realized the medium was the better fit during her first space walk, which was just a week before her planned EVA with Koch, NASA instead opted to partner the two women in consecutive EVAs with astronaut Nick Hague.
According to space.com, of the 566 people who have flown to space, only 64 of those have been women, and of the 38 currently active NASA astronauts, only 12 are women.
The significance of an all-female spacewalk — aside from it never being done before — is that it will pave the way for more female astronauts to make it to the ISS and beyond.