spacewalk with only Women astronauts
Astronaut Christina Koch is now taking the historic space walk with colleague ISS person Jessica Meir. © AFP

An unsuitable space suit still put a spanner in the works in March, but space agency NASA is going for a second chance. On 21 October the very first spacewalk with only women will take place from the international space station ISS (if all goes well this time). Unique and a new milestone for space travel.

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Astronaut Christina Koch was supposed to go on a trip early this year with another female colleague, the American Anne McClain. The plan was to perform installation work together on the outside of the ISS. Unfortunately, there turned out to be only one space suit in size medium.

McClain had already taken a spacewalk before and had trained, in the absence of a suitable top, to crawl in front of her second ‘spacewalk’ in size L. A few days later she did not feel well in the more spacious suite and blew off the historic duo walk-in consultation with NASA.

Unfortunately, it did not come from a resit. “Given the very busy work schedule aboard the space station this spring, with spacewalks and different replenishment missions, the teams have decided to keep the schedule instead of adjusting a spacesuit,” NASA said.

The result was that Koch and a male colleague stepped into the vacuum to replace a set of outdated batteries on the outside of the station. “Sexism,” it sounded on social media. Even former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made a contribution. “Make an extra suit,” she tweeted. 

McClain was forced to smother that feminist discussion. “This decision was made on my recommendation,” she wrote on Twitter. Leaders sometimes have to make difficult decisions. Fortunately, I work with a team that trusts my judgment. We must not take risks. Safety is paramount. “

McClain later took a walk in the only suit. The second suit in size M is now there and so the historical event can become a reality. But not with McClain. Christina Koch is now replacing the batteries of the space station’s solar energy system together with fellow ISS member Jessica Meir.

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During the half-century that human beings are living in space, around 60 women did that. In contrast, there are nearly 500 male Astro and cosmonauts. In 1963, the Russian Valentina Tereshkova was the first lady in space. 21 years later, Svetlana Savitskaya made the first female spacewalk.