Update, 2:58 p.m. EDT: NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir have completed their spacewalk, becoming the first two women to venture outside the International Space Station at the same time. The two spacewalkers, over the course of about seven hours outside the ISS, successfully replaced a power controller that recently failed.
“Today was especially an honor, as we also recognize that this is a milestone. It symbolizes exploration by all that dare to dream and work hard to achieve that dream. Not only that, it’s a tribute to those who paved the way for us to be where we are, and we hope an inspiration to all future explorers,” Koch said upon reentering the space station.
Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will make history today as they step outside the International Space Station in pressure suits for the first all-female spacewalk. For five and a half hours, the two women will float outside the ISS as they work to replace a faulty power controller.
Koch and Meir were originally scheduled to install new batteries outside of the space station next Monday, but they were reassigned to replace a power controller as soon as possible after it failed last weekend, Mike Wall reports for Space.com. NASA officials said the power controller failure is a repeat of a similar problem that occurred in April, so the astronauts need to retrieve the faulty battery charge/discharge unit (BCDU) and send it back to Earth for inspection.
Koch and Meir begin their extravehicular activity (EVA), the official name for a spacewalk, at 7:50 a.m. ET on Friday morning. You can watch a livestream of their spacewalk on NASA TV above.
Koch was originally slated to conduct a spacewalk in March with fellow astronaut Anne McClain, but NASA postponed the milestone mission due to spacesuit availability. Both women preferred the fit of a medium-size spacesuit torso, but only one medium-size suit was configured for work outside of the space station, reported Jacey Fortin and Karen Zraick for the New York Times. Rather than incur the additional hours of labor and risk of prepping another spacesuit before the mission, the team decided to switch out the astronauts. Koch was instead joined by Nick Hague on an otherwise routine mission to install batteries on the ISS.
After her spacewalk with McClain didn’t work out, Koch configured a second medium-size suit herself, reports Ashley Strickland for CNN. Koch has been at the ISS since March 14 and is scheduled to return in February 2020. Her nearly yearlong mission will be the longest single spaceflight undertaken by a woman.
Today’s spacewalk is Koch’s third excursion outside the ISS this month and the fourth of her career, reports William Harwood for CBS News. She was the 14th woman to walk in space, and Meir becomes the 15th this morning.
The first-ever spacewalk was carried out by Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov in 1965. Almost two decades later, Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space, joined by a male cosmonaut in 1984. NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, also ventured out with a male partner later that year, so an all-female team is many years in the making.
For the women making history, though, today is just another day in space. Both Koch and Meir spoke in a video from the space station shown at a NASA media event, reports Taylor Umlauf for the Wall Street Journal.
“We don’t even really think about it on a daily basis. It’s just normal,” Meir said in the video. “We’re part of the team. It’s really nice to see how far we’ve come.”