First All-Female Spacewalk


Kaitlin Lee, Staff Writer

“One small leap for woman, one giant leap for womankind,” seems to summarize the importance of the first-ever all-female spacewalk, which happened on Oct. 18. This is the second attempt at an all-female spacewalk after the first one was canceled in March. The spacewalk officially began at 7:38 a.m. ET, and lasted for 7 hours and 11 minutes. This is not the first time female astronauts have space walked, but it is still a historic accomplishment. 

The two astronauts who completed the walk were Jessica Meir and Christina Koch. It was Meir’s first time and Koch’s fourth. According to both, the spacewalk went well, and they were even able to accomplish some tasks ahead of schedule. 

During the walk, Koch and Meir replaced a faulty battery charge unit that didn’t activate after a spacewalk on Oct. 11. The unit regulates the charging of the batteries from solar panels as the station orbits around the Earth at night. That meant newly-installed batteries couldn’t provide an increase in power for the station. Now that the unit is replaced, postponed spacewalks to replace the batteries can be rescheduled. 

Although it may seem simple to go outside and float in space, astronauts say that doing a spacewalk is one of the most physically challenging things they can do. “It’s really interesting for us,” Meir said about the significance of the spacewalk. “This is just us doing our job. We’ve been training for six years, so it’s coming up here and doing our job. At the same time, we recognize that it is a historic achievement and we want to give credit to the women who came before us. We have followed in their footsteps to get where are today.”

The first woman to do a spacewalk was Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya in 1984, closely followed by NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan. Over the last 35 years, an additional 12 American women have done a spacewalk. 

While the two women performed their spacewalk, millions of people on Earth were rooting them on. President Trump called them during their walk. “The job that you do is incredible. I’m thrilled to be speaking with two brave American astronauts making history,” he said. “I just want to congratulate you, you’re very brave people.” 

The All-Female Spacewalk went viral, and hundreds of thousands of tweets from inspired women praised Meir and Koch for their service. Several showed their own daughters watching the spacewalk, saying this was an inspirational event. As Meir and Koch were former girl scouts, the Girl Scouts also tweeted, “safe travels!” at the two of them. 

Fellow NASA personnel tweeted their praise for Meir and Koch as well. NASA astronaut Drew Morgan (currently on the station) tweeted in support: “So proud of my astrosisters @Astro_Christina and @Astro_Jessica! We’ve been training together since our selection in 2013, and now they’re out on a history-making spacewalk!” 

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine also highlighted the importance of the spacewalk in a congratulatory tweet. 

At the end of the spacewalk, Meir and Koch returned to their ship, exhausted but proud and excited. Both had not only just accomplished their childhood dreams, but broken another glass ceiling and inspired more childhood dreams in future female astronauts worldwide.

Photo courtesy of SMITHSONIANMAG.COM