NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir walked outside of the International Space Station (ISS) Friday to fix a damaged battery as the first all-female spacewalk in history.
The original plan for the all-female spacewalk was canceled several months ago because NASA did not have enough spacesuits in the right size. According to Ken Bowersox, acting associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, the agency has adjusted suits in the past for different body types and will continue to do so as female astronauts become more commonplace.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) tweeted: “One giant leap for WOMANkind!”
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) October 18, 2019
The spacewalk, which lasted five and a half hours, is just the beginning for women pioneers in space. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters at a media briefing that NASA would send the “next man and the first woman” to the moon by 2024.
Koch is set to break another record for women in space. She is scheduled to spend the longest time in space of any female ever — 328 days.
“In the past, women haven’t always been at the table,” Koch said in an interview with NPR from the space station. “It’s wonderful to be contributing to the human spaceflight program at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone is having a role, and that can lead in turn to an increased chance of success.”
Koch and Meir were part of NASA’s 2013 class. It was the first class to have an equal number of men and women, according to the Washington Post, but advancements all the way up to astronaut are typically held by white men, not women or people of color.
A survey by NASA found that one-third of agency employees are women. Twenty-eight percent of senior executive leadership positions and 16% of senior scientific jobs are held by women.