The right way to Watch the First All-Feminine Spacewalk on Friday

A pair of astronauts are getting ready to make historical past this week by conducting the primary area stroll with an all-woman group.

Assuming all goes to plan, NASA crew members Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will depart the inside of the Worldwide Area Station on Friday morning at 7:50 AM ET to switch defective gear on the craft’s exterior. The occasion can be livestreamed on NASA TV.

Koch, who arrived on the ISS in March, has already carried out three area walks, or extravehicular actions (EVAs). Meir was launched to the station only a few weeks in the past, on September 25. Friday’s EVA will mark her first time exterior the ISS.

The primary all-female area stroll was initially scheduled to happen in March, and would have included Koch and fellow NASA astronaut Anne McClain, who returned to Earth in June. However NASA canceled the pairing when solely one of many two medium-sized spacesuits onboard was made prepared.

McClain had skilled in each the massive and medium sized fits on the bottom, and located each to be snug, so NASA deliberate to have her put on the bigger swimsuit whereas giving the medium to Koch. However when McClain realized the medium was the higher match throughout her first area stroll, which was only a week earlier than her deliberate EVA with Koch, NASA as a substitute opted to companion the 2 ladies in consecutive EVAs with astronaut Nick Hague.

“We do our best to anticipate the spacesuit sizes that each astronaut will need, based on the spacesuit size they wore in training on the ground,” Brandi Dean, a spokesperson for NASA, told Motherboard at the time. “No one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in microgravity, and an individual may find that their sizing preferences change in space.”

NASA obtained public backlash and accusations of sexism over the cancellation. In a Tuesday teleconference concerning the upcoming Koch/Meir area stroll, company officers reiterated that gender doesn’t play a job within the collection of EVA crews.

“All of our crew members are completely qualified to do this and I think the fact that it will be two women is just a reflection of the fact that we have so many capable, qualified women,” stated Megan McArthur, deputy chief of NASA’s Astronaut Workplace. “In truth, in terms of looking at the workload that we have coming forward, this was the right crew to send out to do this set of tasks.”

So what precisely are these duties that Koch and Meir can be finishing on Friday? The crew is charged with replacing one of many station’s 24 Battery Cost/Discharge Models (BCDUs), that are exterior battery chargers, after it malfunctioned final week.

The defective unit was turned off whereas Koch and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan put in new lithium-ion batteries throughout an EVA on October 11, as a part of a sequence of spacewalks centered on updating the station’s batteries. However one BCDU solely partially turned again on once they had been performed. The failure poses no threat to the crew, NASA said, however it’s nonetheless ultimate to revive full energy to the unit.

Koch and Meir will exchange the BCDU with a spare, then modify another exterior {hardware} to organize for future EVA missions. The area stroll is predicted to final a number of hours.

The astronauts first hinted that they may be assigned to the identical EVA during an interview aboard the ISS on October 4.

“We still don’t know the final assignments for all of those [EVAs] but yeah, there’s a chance that we could be doing it together,” Meir stated. “Any of the [crew] combinations are a possibility.”

In the identical interview, Koch, who’s on monitor to interrupt the document for the longest single spaceflight by a girl, stated she wrestled with the concept that her achievements are sometimes framed by gender. In the end, although, she stated that it was necessary to acknowledge the precise milestones of ladies in spaceflight as a result of “of the historical nature of what we’re doing.”

“In the past, women haven’t always been at the table,” Koch stated. “It’s wonderful to be contributing to the human spaceflight program at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role, and that can lead, in turn, to an increased chance for success.”

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Becky Ferreira

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