It’s been just over 50 years since Neil Armstrong first landed on the moon. He said the now infamous phrase, “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” While this moment in space exploration was an indescribable turning point for our country and the world, history continues to be made in outer space half a century later. On October 21st, the first ever all-female spacewalk is set to take place, according to CNN.
NASA announced at the beginning of the month that astronauts Christina Koch (pictured left) and Jessica Meir (pictured right) will be taking to the stars for an expedition outside the International Space Station. Koch has been at the ISS since March of this year, and is set to break the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, a record previously set by Peggy Whitson at 288 days. Meir arrived at the station for her first mission just a couple weeks ago, reports CNN, and was greeted with a warm welcome from her fellow astronaut peers.
These two powerhouse space explorers have trained together in the same astronaut class for the past six years. Their mission will contribute to the replacement of solar array batteries to lithium-ion batteries, and the refurbishment of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a scientific device which according to NASA, “explores the fundamental nature of the universe.”
The Journey to an All Female Spacewalk
While this will be the first time a female duo will be completing a space mission, this isn’t the first attempt at a women only spacewalk. Back in March of 2019, NASA had to halt the possibility of an all-female excursion that would have been led by Koch and her former crew mate, Anne McClain. The week of the scheduled space travel, NASA canceled the walk, claiming there were not ample spacesuits in inventory that would fit another female astronaut. McClain was cut from the mission and replaced with a male astronaut, Nick Hague. Once news broke of this change of roster, outrage ensued as the public questioned NASA’s lack of inclusivity in regards to suit sizes.
Nevertheless, the mission went on without McClain and NASA has since constructed, prepped, and shipped out another suit to the ISS that will allow more women to participate in future spacewalks.
Although this adjustment was a setback for history-making progress, the new mission was announced via NASA’s Twitter account. This solidified a new opportunity for an all-woman team to make history, and travel out into space. This monumental spacewalk isn’t just going to be a part of future textbooks— it’s going to open doors for the future generations of female astronauts, and their male companions. Little girls can now look up to women like Christina Koch and Jessica Meir and see that it is possible to dream big and (literally) reach for the stars. Not only that, but women will be more visible in another traditionally male dominated field of work. And since NASA rolled out a brand new suit that will fit female crewmates, that means more women will be able to work aboard, and outside of, the ISS.
This long awaited spacewalk signifies the immeasurable progress women have made in the fight for equality, on Earth and beyond. We can’t let something as small as an ill-fitting space suit stop women from entering into positions they deserve. This spacewalk means being seen and heard in every workforce imaginable. It means inspiring girls and women around the world who have felt that they need to keep the bar low when it comes to their aspirations. It’s one small step for women, but one giant leap for womankind.
If you’re interested in reading about other giant leaps for womankind, feel free to check out this article on Top 10 Most Influential Black Women in the 2010s.