NASA astronauts achieve milestone with historic all-female spacewalk

WASHINGTON, dpa correspondents (dpa)- NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history Friday by conducting the first all-female spacewalk to repair part of the International Space Station (ISS).
The US space agency called the seven-hour-and-17-minute spacewalk "another milestone in human space exploration."

They successfully fulfilled their mission to replace a faulty battery unit on the ISS's exterior that failed to activate earlier this month. The unit helps regulate the energy collected from the station's solar array.
The spacewalk lasted longer than expected by nearly two hours as the women handled some additional tasks before it concluded when they re-entered the ISS and began shedding their space suits.
Former astronaut Stephanie Wilson, spacewalk coordinator at mission control in Houston, Texas, guided the pair, sharing the livestream broadcast on NASA TV with three female commentators.
Towards the end of their spacewalk the two received a call from US President Donald Trump, who told them he was "thrilled to be speaking live with two brave American astronauts who are making history."
Meir responded by saying it was something they had been training for six years.
"For us, it's just coming out here and doing our job today," she said.
Meir also gave credit to female astronauts who have done spacewalks in the past - always accompanied by men.
"We recognize that it is a historic achievement and we do of course want to give credit for all those who came before us," Meir said.
"There has been a long line of female scientists, explorers, engineers and astronauts and we have followed in their footsteps to get us where we are today."
It was Koch's fourth spacewalk and the first venture into the vacuum of space for Meir, who was born in the US but also holds Israeli and Swedish citizenships.
They are among 15 women who have walked in space and their spacewalk Friday was the 43rd to include a woman since July 1984, when Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to achieve the feat.
Koch was attached to the ISS's extendable arm in the first part of the operation and began removing bolts, velcro and some straps from the defective unit.
The astronauts commented on the "phenomenal" and "amazing" view during the spacewalk - the 221st performed at the two-decade old ISS.
Friday's mission was NASA's second shot at achieving the giant leap for womankind.
Koch was scheduled to be on a spacewalk alongside astronaut Anne McClain in March. But NASA had to scrap their walk and replace McClain with her male colleague Nick Hague because of a lack of spacesuits in the right size.
Koch said she considered the all-female spacewalk important "because of the historical nature of what we're doing."
"In the past women haven't always been at the table. It's wonderful to be contributing to the space programme at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role.
"There are a lot of people who derive motivation from inspiring stories of people who look like them, and I think it's an important story to tell," Koch said.

Friday, October 18th 2019
dpa correspondents (dpa)

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