NASA has announced that astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will take part in the first ever, all-female spacewalk later this month. This after the first spacewalk was cancelled after there were not enough medium sized space suits.
In March 2019, female astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain were scheduled to conduct the first, all-female spacewalk, but NASA was forced to scrap the mission because only one medium sized spacesuit was available at the time (the size both Koch and McClain required). As a result of this incredible mistake, the historic spacewalk was rescheduled and Koch did the walk with male astronaut Nick Hague instead. Anne McClain has since returned to Earth after 204 days aboard the ISS.
“”Individuals sizing needs may change when they are in orbit.” Brandi Dean, from NASA’s public affairs office told CNN in March. “No one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in microgravity, and an individual may find that their size preferences change in space”
The newly scheduled spacewalk is only possible because NASA had sent up a new spacesuit that was “configurable to fit a medium sized torso in order to meet future staffing requirements” according to Space.
Koch, who arrived on the International Space Station in March, is on track to setting a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, a record previously held by Peggy Whitson. She is scheduled to return to earth in February 2020.
The upcoming spacewalks are part of an ongoing mission to replace the batteries on the International Space Stations109-meter-long backbone. The team of astronauts will be swapping out the nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries, which are more powerful, and have a much longer lifespan. They will also be upgrading the the orbiting lab’s power system.
During October, Koch is scheduled to perform three different spacewalk in total, with the momentous all-female spacewalk taking place on October 21.