NASA is about to make history on March 29 with the first all-female spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Canadian Space Agency and NASA flight controller Kristen Facciol, who will be providing support on the ground, shared the exciting news on Twitter. Initially planned for last fall, this walk was delayed and somewhat fortuitously scheduled for Women’s History Month, which celebrates the contributions of women both in history and modern society.
NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch are suiting up for the female-only walk, a seven-hour extravehicular mission that will be broadcast on NASA TV. McClain boarded the ISS in December while Koch will arrive March 14 on the Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft along with fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. It’s an exciting time of firsts for both women. This is the first ISS spacewalk for McClain and the first spaceflight for Koch.
Women With Byte is a continuing series of articles in which we look at the many contributions women have made to technology — past and present — as well as the hurdles they faced (and overcome) and the foundations for the future they’ve laid for the next generations of women in technology.
The spacewalk isn’t the first tie that binds the two women. The pair, along with Hague, were selected as part of NASA’s astronaut class of 2013, which was the first class in NASA’s history to have an equal number of men and women. Beyond the ISS and this spacewalk, the members of this class could be among the first astronauts and women to travel to Mars.
Besides the McClain and Koch, several other prominent women are supporting this historic spacewalk. Jackie Kagey will serve as the lead EVA flight controller, while lead flight director Mary Lawrence and Kristen Facciol will provide support on the ground. Facciol shared her excitement about being part of this historic event in a recent tweet, “I just found out that I’ll be on console providing support for the FIRST ALL FEMALE SPACEWALK with @AstroAnnimal and @Astro_Christina and I can not contain my excitement!!!!”
The March 29 mission may be the first female-only spacewalk, but this is not the first time a woman has participated in an extravehicular mission. In 1984, Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya earned the distinction of being the first woman to walk in space in 1984 when she worked outside the Salyut 7 space station. Shortly after Savitskaya’s spacewalk, NASA astronaut Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan became the first American women to perform an extra-vehicular activity during Space Shuttle Challenger mission. Since that time, women have regularly worked alongside their male counterparts on spacewalks.
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