Oct 18, 2019

Astronauts step outside for first all-female spacewalk in history

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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Why an all-female spacewalk took so long

NASA astronaut Christina Koch takes a selfie during a spacewalk. Photo: NASA

As NASA aims to make spaceflight more inclusive and equitable, outdated ideas about women and their fitness for certain aspects of spaceflight still persist.

Driving the news: During a press briefing ahead of the historic all-female spacewalk on Friday, NASA's acting associate administrator for human exploration Ken Bowersox suggested that it took this long for two women to go on a spacewalk together in part because women's bodies aren't as fit for spacewalking as men's.

Go deeperArrowOct 22, 2019

SpaceX and Boeing inch toward sending people to space from U.S. soil

Boeing's Starliner during a test of its abort system in New Mexico. Photo: NASA

SpaceX and Boeing are working to clear a number of safety hurdles before the end of the year ahead of launching their first crews of astronauts to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The two companies have been tasked with flying people to space from U.S. soil, ending NASA's reliance on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft for transportation to the station.

Go deeperArrowNov 5, 2019

Brands in orbit

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fashion, food and media brands are using the buzz around the space industry to market their products, shaping the way people on Earth understand and interact with the extraterrestrial sphere for years to come.

What's happening: Last week, Virgin Galactic announced a partnership with Under Armour to produce a line of spacewear to be worn on the company's suborbital flights to the edge of space.

Go deeperArrowOct 22, 2019