For the first time in history, NASA intended to launch a spacewalk featuring only women. American astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain began working for NASA in 2013, but it was only recently when they were chosen to enter space’s atmosphere. While this was clearly set to be a history-making moment, many argue that it was long overdue. And, while ultimately unsuccessful, it does give hope to the future generation of female astronauts.
What is a Spacewalk?
A spacewalk refers to any event in which an astronaut leaves a spacecraft and enters space. Its primary aim is to get the astronauts acquainted with being in space, although it serves a practical purpose as well. A spacewalk may be ordered so that the astronaut can collect data, test equipment or attach something to the aircraft. Sometimes, a spacewalk is absolutely necessary, for instance when a piece of the aircraft requires emergency care.
Spacewalks have been a routine part of NASA protocol since 1965 when astronaut Ed White entered space for 23 minutes. Since then, many astronauts have had their turn, but it wasn’t until earlier this month that two women were selected to go out on a spacewalk.
To go on a spacewalk, the astronaut must receive considerable training. That’s part of the reason why these two astronauts were not able to go on a spacewalk until six years after they became part of NASA’s team.
The Spacewalk: What Happened?
On March 22, McClain went on her first spacewalk with astronaut Nick Hague, exactly one week before her scheduled spacewalk with fellow female astronaut Koch. The spacewalk was successful.
However, on March 29, when McClain joined Koch, she realized that there was a problem with the spacesuit situation. There was only one medium-sized torso piece of the spacesuit, and both women needed it. Because McClain had already gone on her own spacewalk a week prior, she allowed Koch to wear it, deciding that Koch would go on the spacewalk with Hague while McClain sat it out.
Those within NASA are apparently well aware of the fact that the spacesuit situation is a bit dire. There simply aren’t enough funds to provide astronauts with a wider selection of suits to choose from before going on a mission.
Still, despite the fact that this unprecedented moment had to be canceled, the women were in good spirits. In the meantime, McClain’s next spacewalk is scheduled for April 8, this time with another male astronaut.
What This Means for the Future of Female Astronauts
While the all-female spacewalk never happened, it’s still worth noting that more and more women are training to become astronauts than ever before. This means that a successful all-female spacewalk shouldn’t be that far off in the future.
It’s also important to note that according to NASA, the event was not orchestrated for the purpose of creating a historical moment. They were just the two best astronauts at the time for the job.
Only the Beginning
As more and more women enter the world of space exploration, we expect to see more all-female spacewalks in the years to come.