Last Year’s Scheduled NASA All-Woman Spacewalk Launched – FINALLY!
Take two! Last year, NASA had scheduled an unprecedented event – an all-woman spacewalk mission right before Women's History Month. No men required. But, due to an unforeseen space suit sizing snafu, the otherworldly event failed to launch, at least a long-awaited “ladies only” version. Until this past October.
Unfortunately, the highly anticipated all-woman NASA spacewalk was postponed last spring after the startling realization the crew was ill-equipped with properly fitting spacesuits for all the women on board. The women required a size medium and the suits were previously sized and designed for their larger male counterparts. Former First Lady Hillary Clinton aptly tweeted, “Then, make another suit.” Apparently, when it comes to soaring into space, size really does matter.
And, We Have Liftoff, Ladies!
Jessica Meir and Kristina Koch set out for the first-in-over-50 years, ladies-only endeavor just outside the International Space Station on Friday, October 18th, 2019. Their mission was to install lithium-ion batteries that would effectively serve the station’s demanding power supply, while also replacing a power controller. This all-female, six-hour launch went off without a hitch and will be the fourth of ten scheduled spacewalks over the next three months. According to NASA, upon the conclusion of the ten scheduled missions, it will have set a record pace of complex spacewalks since the space station’s completion in 2011. With a barrage of celebratory tweets and social media posts from celebs and self-professed space cadets, including a personal congratulatory call from President Trump, the ladies successfully womanned the first all-female mission in over 5 decades, becoming only two of 65 women who’ve launched into space. To date, there have been more than 560 people to travel into space from all around the world.
“I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing, and in the past, women haven’t always been at the table,” Koch tells NASA TV. “And, it’s wonderful to be contributing to the human spaceflight program at a time when all contributions are being accepted.”
Koch and Meir were members of the 2013 astronaut class and were both chosen from more than 6,000 applicants – half being women and a first for NASA. Currently, NASA lists 38 active astronauts on their official website, of which only 12 are women.
Galactic GoGirls and Out-of-this-World Fun Facts
Koch arrived at the station in March prepared for the initially scheduled mission and is currently on her way to break the record of Peggy Whitson by embarking on the longest spaceflight performed by a woman. Up until now, Whitson was the first American female with the most time spent amongst the stars.
Koch is scheduled to remain in orbit until February, which will dutifully provide researchers ample time to study and record the woes and (hopefully) wonders a significant spaceflight duration can have on a woman’s body. For instance, the monthly bodily function of menstruation, stress, and even sweating haven’t been previously observed up until now, so the outcomes will surely open the door to these otherwise taboo, once-forbidden subjects. Interestingly, a 1960s report raised “understandable concerns” for women and space travel. It boldly stated, “a temperamental psychophysiological human” (a normal, hormonal woman) together with a “complicated machine” (spacecraft) might increase the likelihood of “retrograde menstruation” (reversal of blood flow). As it turned out, the presumptuous report failed to offer conclusive evidence. The irony is that women are actually better suited for space travel due to their smaller/lighter size, body composition, consumption of fewer resources, and better handling of stress, according to a series of experiments conducted by Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace II where he ran a group of female pilots through the same tests he ran the male Mercury astronauts. The key findings of this latest ladies-only mission will help NASA determine the prerequisites of female-forward future space flights to both Mars and the moon.
On being a historical part of this ladies-only operation, Ms. Meir modestly asserts, “It’s just a mission. We’re part of a team.”
We love this to the moon and back. A giant leap for womankind, GoGirls!