by Alan Davison | November 29, 2019 10:15 pm
Nasa Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir were the first team of an all-female spacewalk to perform important maintenance on the International Space Station.
The walk, which lasted a little over 7 hours, had the women on the far left end of the space station to replace a critical power controller to the station’s battery system.
The failure of this controller caused a loss of power to the station’s solar power system.
This historical walk for women was important not only because of the importance of the walk but also because they were the first all-female team.
NASA explains that while it is historical for Koch and Meir, it was eventually going to happen! In recent years, there has been a rise in female astronauts and currently, around 10% of astronauts are female.
While this percentage doesn’t seem like much on the surface, it is an increase compared to previous years. Christina Koch has three previous spacewalks under her belt with this one making her fourth.
For Jessica Meir, it was her first time journeying on a spacewalk. The replacement of the battery was said to be successful and the women were even able to complete other tasks while outside of the International Space Station.
The monumental spacewalk was initially scheduled for March, however, the team was a little different then. Christina Koch was originally scheduled to take the walk with Anne McClain.
These plans fell through due to an inventory issue with properly sized spacesuits. Having a properly sized spacesuit makes all the difference because people’s bodies are different in space.
For a spacewalk mission to really be successful, everything needs to be just right, especially the spacesuit. This seems baffling to some people considering that spacesuits are tailored to a variety of body sizes.
Some speculate that most size measurements are more for men rather than women. While this could be the case, NASA representative, Stephanie Schierholz, indicates that spacesuits are typically made with over 80 different body measurements.
Schierholz went on to explain that the suits specifically measure the upper torso areas, elbows, gloves, waists, knees, and various padding throughout the suit itself.
These detailed sections of a spacesuit are the moving parts of the suit. They all work together to keep astronauts safe during their space travels. Too loose or too tight of a suit can make all of the difference.
Currently, the upper torso area is said to have 3 different measurements, the elbows have 8 different sizes (and are adjustable), the waists come in 2 sizes (also adjustable), and there are 5 different knee configurations that are also adjustable.
There are a lot of size options, however, it isn’t as easy as knowing all of the part’s size adjustments.
So why couldn’t McClain have a suit more appropriate for her frame? She stated that she attempted to use a larger size in the spacesuit sizing, however, it simply didn’t feel right for her.
According to McClain, a medium would have fit a lot better. This type of suit could have accommodated her body better because all the various parts of the suit would have been just the right size.
Because the spacesuits needs to be the exact measurements to fit the astronauts just right, it was critical that McClain would have had the proper sized suit.
While the lack of the right sized suits created a setback to the initial mission, the mission itself has proven to be effective.
Koch and Meir’s mission to replace the controller behind the battery failure saved the International Space Station from further power loss
The power controller ensures that the batteries receive proper charges. When this fails, the power is obviously disrupted.
Due to Koch and Meir’s actions, the process went as fast as it could while still being really accurate. The women were humble about their success stating, “It’s just us doing our jobs”.
However, it is much more than swapping out a battery or controller! This important walk keeps the maintenance of the International Space Station in check.
Originally, the spacewalk mission was for the women to install lithium-ion batteries which was scheduled for next Monday.
Their all-female spacewalk occurred sooner than expected when they jumped into action to control the unforeseen failure of the power controller.
Not only were they successful in replacing the controller efficiently, the women worked really well as a team to get the job done.
Women in space isn’t new, however, sending a team of women is just the start to bridging a gap in all-female spacewalk missions. Previously, there have been women on missions accompanied by men.
And of course, Sally Ride was the first American women to fly to space back in 1983, with two Soviet women doing so previously. Kathryn Sullivan was the first American woman to do a spacewalk back in 1984, not too far from when Sally made her journey to space.
Women are certainly making their paths here on Earth and in outer space in concerns to space travel.
Koch and Meir, along with Anne McClain who was to originally be apart of this mission, were all part of the same astronaut trainee program back in 2013.
At the time, there were 8 trainees and this particular class was the first of its kind to feature an equal ratio of women to men.
Currently, there are 12 total female astronauts within the NASA program which has a total of 38 active members.
While 12 really isn’t too many compared to almost 40, it simply goes to show that females are carving their way into space travel more and more every year.
Koch and Meir made history for females currently in the NASA program and for those who are thinking about joining.
Completing the spacewalk showcased that not only are they doing critical work for the ongoing research of space but they are doing so while paving a path for future and current female astronauts!
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