NASA Announces First All-Female Spacewalk

Update: On March 27, NASA announced the cancellation of the first all-female spacewalk. The reason? There were two female astronauts, but one only spacesuit available in their size: medium. Can you imagine this happening to two male astronauts? Of course not.

This is yet another example, as if we needed one, of how gender bias is everywhere. As a high school teacher, I’ve witnessed it over and over, in spite of the 1972 passage of Title IX. The boys’ football teams receive much more funding and publicity than any team of girls. Or take discrepancies between salaries. High Tide reports that “The average salary for a WNBA player is $72,000 while the average salary of an NBA player is about five million dollars.”

Really, NASA? You didn’t realize until too late that you needed two medium-size spacesuits?

As a fitting end to Women’s History Month, astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch are scheduled to walk outside the International Space Station (ISS) on March 29.

McClain has been at the ISS since December, but this will be her first time outside the station. She explained:

[We’re] getting the suits ready and getting the systems ready, setting the procedures, and getting the team ready. As you know, the other half of our team will not arrive until about a week before the spacewalks, so [there are] a lot of technical preparations [to do] to make sure everything is ready. But the space station, it’s been up here for 20 years and it’s time to do some upgrades on the outside, and we are ready.

This is the first spaceflight for Christina Koch, who is en route to join her teammate. 

On March 29, Koch and McClain will also receive ground support from women at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Kristen Faciol of the Canadian Space Agency will serve as flight controller, while lead flight director Mary Lawrence will be in charge of overseeing the station crew. Jackie Kagey will act as the lead spacewalk officer. 

It’s an all-female challenge!

Faciol was the first to tweet out this announcement: 

According to NASA, the spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 8:20 a.m. EST and last about seven hours.

McClain and Koch were both students in the 2013 astronaut candidate class. NASA received over 6,100 applications, and the agency selected just eight candidates — four women and four men. 

Here’s how NASA described these two exceptional women:

Anne C. McClain, 34, Major, U.S. Army, lists her hometown as Spokane, Wash, She is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; the University of Bath and the University of Bristol, both in the United Kingdom. McClain is an OH-58 helicopter pilot, and a recent graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.

Christina M. Hammock (now Christina Hammock Koch), 34, calls Jacksonville, N,C, home. Hammock holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from North Carolina State University Raleigh, N.C. She currently is serving as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Station Chief in American Samoa.

Since her initial training, McClain has flown more than 2,000 hours in 20 different aircraft. Koch has worked in scientific field engineering, as well as space science instrument development. She will serve as flight engineer for the expedition.

“When you are finally in space and you’re finally looking back at Earth and you realize for the first time in your life there’s nothing standing between you and your dream, it’s just so hard to describe the profound impact of that,” an excited McClain told NPR in February.

It was almost 35 years ago, on July 25, 1984, that Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to complete a spacewalk.

Since then, women have captured several firsts, including the longest single female spaceflight by American astronaut Peggy Whitson. In 2016 and 2017, she spent 289 days aboard the space station. Whitson also gets the record for most cumulative time spent in space, when she logged most of her 665 days in space on the ISS.

Other records include the most women in space simultaneously, when female astronauts from two separate spaceflight missions came together at the ISS in April of 2010. Tracy Caldwell Dyson flew in on a Soyuz spacecraft, and NASA astronauts Stephanie Wilson and Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, along with Japan’s Naoko Yamazaki, arrived aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

These are exciting times in space exploration, and women are at the forefront. Congratulations to astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch on their outstanding and courageous achievements!

This March, Care2 is launching a campaign to empower women and girls. Join us!

Photo Credit: NASA/Unsplash

68 comments

Sharon R
Sharonaway R19 days ago

Thanks.

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Tania N
Tania N22 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N22 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N22 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Leo C
Leo C23 days ago

Thanks for sharing!

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Carole R
Carole R23 days ago

Yea until they realized they only had one space suit to fit a woman. Unbelievable.

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silja salonen
silja s23 days ago

one further comment on the NASA fumble.... maybe this was always the intention. apparently women were never really thought of as a possibility for space travel. so many years ago the suits were made with ONLY men in mind. if a woman was considered she needed to be at least 5'11' and of certain weight, to fit into said suits. so again as I mentioned before in a comment ... an oversight; no one thought to check out the suits, until the last moment... please some how NASA with all its calculations and formulas etc etc would have thought of the SUITS...all that comes to my mind is "hmmmm"

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Leo C
Leo C24 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Tania N
Tania N24 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N24 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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