On Friday 18 October 2019, astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch completed the first all-female spacewalk. The historical event lasted seven hours and seventeen minutes, according to the New York Times.
The women were tasked with replacing a failed power control unit on the outside of the International Space Station.
“I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing,” Koch said ahead of the spacewalk in a statement. “In the past, women haven’t always been at the table. It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space program at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role. That can lead in turn to increased chance for success.”
According to the Guardian, the astronauts made their way around the space station by being clipped with carabiners to the side as they went along, to make sure they didn’t float off into space.
This spacewalk had been planned seven months earlier but because there was only one medium space suit in the Space Station, when two were needed. Some have pointed to this incident as an example of how space agencies don’t accommodate or consider female astronauts enough.
The difference between women’s participation in space compared to men’s is significant. According to the Guardian, only 14 women and 213 men have carried out spacewalks ever. The first woman was the Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, who went outside the USSR’s Salyut 7 space station in 1984.
This was the first spacewalk for Jessica Meir and the fourth for Christina Koch.