On October 18, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history. They were the first two women to lead on an all-women spacewalk. Koch was lucky enough to have a component of her suit that was previously worn by Kathryn Sullivan, the first woman ever to travel into space 35 years ago, a reminder of how far space travel has come.
Both Meir and Koch have been training alongside each other for over six years and had been selected to be astronauts in 2013. Although this is a momentous occasion for women all over, both Meir and Koch hope this becomes common in the near future and isn’t regarded as much as a big deal as it is now. “We are trending in the right direction,” Meir said. “There are more females and more diversity in general in STEM fields that has led to a higher percentage of women in astronaut classes. To me, that kind of gender equality and inclusion is the way to get the job done for a successful mission.”
While this was Koch’s fourth walk, this was Meir’s first. Even in Meir’s high school yearbook, she listed for her plans for the future was to go on a spacewalk. She trained for years on end in the neutral buoyancy lab at the Johnson Space Center, which is basically a large pool, practicing for a spacewalk. However, her experience in space was much different than in a pool. Due to the drags in the water, you don’t go tumbling out of control because of the slightest movement, in space, however, the lack of gravity causes you to do just that. This came in handy as both astronauts were working on repairs to the International Space Station for seven hours, causing them to stay perfectly still throughout the entire process is physically challenging.
During their repairs, both Meir and Koch had to repair a faulty battery charge/discharge unit which failed to work after the spacewalk on October 11. Due to this faulty unit, it did not allow newly implemented batteries from increasing the power of the station. The station is powered by four battery units and solar arrays, so the faulty battery unit did not make a huge impact on Meir or Koch in either of their experiments. When replacing the battery, Koch was lucky enough to ride at the end of a robotic arm, which not a lot of astronauts get to do. However, now that the unit has been replaced, all postponed spacewalks to replace the battery can be rescheduled to a further date.
When both Meir and Koch returned from the spacewalk on Friday, Koch reported that there was a presence on her gloves which the engineers presume is a grease stain from the mechanical component on the arm. Otherwise, this spacewalk was pretty uneventful “in a good way” and Meir and Koch were able to establish some get-ahead maintenance on the international space station.