Home Science NASA Tries Again for the First All-Female Spacewalk – The Wall Street Journal

NASA Tries Again for the First All-Female Spacewalk – The Wall Street Journal

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NASA astronauts Jessica Meir, left, and Christina Koch aboard the International Space Station on Oct. 4


Photo:

NASA/Associated Press

NASA is set to launch the first all-female spacewalk Friday, after canceling it earlier this year because it didn’t have two spacesuits in the right size.

NASA astronauts

Christina Koch

and

Jessica Meir

are slated to venture outside the International Space Station to replace a power controller that failed over the weekend on what would be the 221st spacewalk at the International Space Station since December 1998.

Earlier this year, a spacewalk featuring Ms. Koch and NASA astronaut

Anne McClain

was scheduled to be the first all-female walk, but plans were scrapped when NASA said it didn’t have a spacesuit available in Ms. McClain’s size. Ms. McClain’s space mission ended this summer and she returned to Earth, but in September, Ms. Meir arrived at the International Space Station, joining Ms. Koch as the only other woman on board. Ms. Meir is now scheduled to join Ms. Koch on a spacewalk, NASA said.

Ms. Koch and Ms. Meir spoke on a video from the space station shown at a NASA media event previewing the spacewalks with reporters. “We don’t even really think about it on a daily basis. It’s just normal. We’re part of the team. It’s really nice to see how far we’ve come,” Ms. Meir said of their approaching all-female milestone.

Ms. Koch, who arrived at the space station March 14, is also on track to set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. Currently scheduled to be in orbit for 328 days, she would eclipse former NASA astronaut

Peggy Whitson’s

record of 288 days next year. The longest single spaceflight by a NASA astronaut was 340 days, set by former NASA astronaut

Scott Kelly.

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A properly fitting spacesuit is key to allowing for the range of motion needed to perform the work on spacewalk missions, according to NASA. The spacesuits, or Extravehicular Mobility Units, weigh from 350 to 500 pounds depending on the equipment and provide air and temperature controls, battery power, communications, and protection from radiation and space debris.

On Oct. 6, Ms. Koch and fellow NASA astronaut

Andrew Morgan

completed the first of five spacewalks scheduled for this month—a seven-hour, one-minute operation to replace nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion ones on the outside of the International Space Station. On Oct. 11, Ms. Koch and Mr. Morgan completed a six-hour and 45-minute spacewalk to continue work on the batteries.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain during a spacewalk on March 22


Photo:

NASA/Reuters

Ms. Koch and Ms. Meir were originally scheduled to perform the walk Oct. 21 to make upgrades to the batteries, but are instead set to replace a faulty power unit. The unit’s failure “has no impact on the crew’s safety or ongoing laboratory experiments,” but prevents a new lithium-ion battery installed earlier this month from providing additional station power, according to NASA.

More spacewalks are set to follow those to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a cosmic ray catcher searching for evidence of “dark matter” in the universe.

Since its inception in 1958, NASA has selected 350 astronaut candidates, 57 of whom have been women. Currently, of the 38 active astronauts and 11 candidates in training, 17 are women. All told, 65 women have flown in space, including women from France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Iran, South Korea, Japan, China and Italy.

NASA is also planning on sending the first woman to the Moon by 2024. On Tuesday, the agency unveiled prototypes of the spacesuits to be used on that mission. NASA spacesuit engineer

Kristine Davis

wore one of the suits with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine describing the suits as being designed to “fit all of our astronauts.”

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