CAPE CANAVERAL: The world’s first all-female spacewalking team made history high above Earth on Friday, replacing a broken part of the International Space Station’s power grid.
As NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir successfully completed the job with wrenches, screwdrivers and power-grip tools, it marked the first time in a half-century of spacewalking that men weren’t part of the action. They insisted they were just doing their job after years of training, following in the footsteps of women who paved the way.
America’s first female spacewalker from 35 years ago, Kathy Sullivan, was delighted. She said it’s good to finally have enough women in the astronaut corps and trained for spacewalking for this to happen. “We’ve got qualified women running the control, running space centres, commanding the station, commanding spaceships and doing spacewalks,” Sullivan told The Associated Press earlier this week.
President Donald Trump put in a congratulatory call from the White House to mark “this historic event truly historic.” NASA leaders, Girl Scouts and others also cheered Koch and Meir on. Parents also sent in messages of thanks and encouragement via social media. NASA included some in its TV coverage. “Go girls go,” two young sisters wrote on a sign in crayon. A group of middle schoolers held a long sign reading “The sky is not the limit!!”
At the same time, many expressed hope this will become routine in the future.Tracy Caldwell Dyson, a three-time spacewalker who looked on from Mission Control in Houston, added: “Hopefully, this will now be considered normal.”
NASA originally wanted to conduct an all-female spacewalk last spring but did not have enough medium-size suits ready to go until summer. Koch and Meir were supposed to install more new batteries in a spacewalk next week but ventured out three days earlier to deal with an equipment failure that occurred over the weekend. It was the second such failure of a battery charger this year, puzzling engineers and putting a hold on future battery installations for the solar power system. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine watched the big event unfold from Washington headquarters.“We have the right people doing the right job at the right time. They are an inspiration to people all over the world including me. And we’re very excited to get this mission underway.”-said Mr. Jim.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also sent congratulations to Koch and Meir “for leaving their mark on history” and tweeted that they’re an inspiration to women and girls across America.
It took two decades for women to catch up with men in the spacewalking arena. Friday’s milestone spacewalk was the 421st for team Earth.