Oct 18, 2019 - Science

Astronauts step outside for first all-female spacewalk in history

A NASA astronaut works in daylight on the outside of the international space station

NASA's Christina Koch during a spacewalk on Friday. Photo: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch stepped into the vacuum of space for a history-making spacewalk outside of the International Space Station on Friday.

Why it matters: While American women have been flying in space since Sally Ride made her first trip to orbit in 1983, today's spacewalk marks the first all-female spacewalk in history.

Details: Koch and Meir were expected to go for their first spacewalk on Oct. 21, but a power issue on the station forced mission managers to plan Friday's walk first, delaying the Monday spacewalk and others in the series.

  • The two astronauts will change out a battery charging unit that collects energy from the station's solar arrays, NASA said in a statement, adding that the unit's failure presents no harm to the orbiting outpost or its astronauts.
  • This is Koch's fourth spacewalk and Meir's first, and it is expected to take 5 to 6 hours.
  • The two women are self-proclaimed "best friends."

Between the lines: While women made up half of Meir and Koch's 2013 astronaut class, women comprise about 34% of NASA's workforce as a whole, and 23% of the agency's science and engineering employees, according to agency statistics.

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