HERstory in space: NASA astronauts Jessica Meir, Christina Koch conduct first all-female space walk


Photo credit: Nasa.gov

Astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch in the International Space Station. Meir is originally from Maine while Koch is from Michigan.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch entered the crew lock of the International Space Station [ISS] and into space 220 miles away from earth on Oct. 18. As 42-year-old Meir and 40-year-old Koch left the crew lock at 7:38 a.m., the first-ever all-female spacewalk began.

The walk lasted for seven hours and 17 minutes, ending at 2:55 p.m. ET. Both women successfully completed the goal of the walk, which was to replace a broken battery charger on the ISS.

The administration team at Archer streamed the spacewalk on two television screens in the dining hall for students, faculty and staff to view.

“This is something that has never happened before,” junior Ruby Horton said.”To see such a groundbreaking thing, as well as seeing that women can actually make a change — and that it’s not just an idea that people tell us — is inspiring.”

Before this expedition, coined Expedition 61, Koch had previously been on three spacewalks. But it was Meir’s first space walk, making her the fifteenth woman ever in space. In the midst of their spacewalk, President Donald Trump communicated with the two astronauts via a call from the White House.

“The job you do is incredible,” Trump said. “I’m thrilled to be speaking with two brave American astronauts making history. This is the first time for a woman outside of the space station. I just want to congratulate you, you’re very brave people. You are amazing people.”

Meir responded to Trump’s call by noting how they have followed the in the “footsteps” of the “long line of female scientists, explorers, engineers and astronauts” that influenced them.

“For us, it’s just coming out here and doing our job today. We were the crew that was tasked with this assignment,” Meir said. “At the same time, we recognize that is is a historic achievement and we do, of course, want to give credit to all those who came before us.”

This spacewalk was the second attempt made by NASA as the first one that was going to occur last March was scrapped due to issues regarding space-suits. Koch was going to be paired with astronaut Anne McClain for last March; however, McClain has since returned to Earth. This issue was met with criticism because, instead of preparing a space-suit ready for a spacewalk in the appropriate size for McClain, NASA decided to restaff the mission with astronaut Nick Hague as Koch’s partner. Koch’s new partner Meir arrived at the ISS at the beginning of October in time for the Oct. 18 mission and met Koch, who had been stationed there since March 14, 2019.

Photo credit: Christina Koch
Astronaut Christina Koch takes a selfie outside the International Space Station. Koch received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics from North Carolina State University. Photo courtesy of NASA.

“It symbolizes exploration by all that dare to dream and work hard to achieve that dream — we hope an inspiration for all future explorers,” Koch said.

Koch will be set to remain at the ISS until February of 2020 and Meir will remain until the spring of 2020.

Junior Gianna Lotman believes Meir and Koch’s spacewalk showed her “who heroes can truly be.”

“We always used to think of heroes as people like Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, but now there are people like me walking in space,” Lotman said. “As a kid, you always dream ‘I want to go up to space,’ and now it feels like it can be a reality for someone like me. We always say we are trying to break the glass ceiling. Well, we broke the atmosphere.”