NASA astronaut Scott Kelly works outside of the ISS during a spacewalk in 2015 (Photo from NASA/Getty Images)
NASA is about to make history. The agency is set to hold its first ever all-female spacewalk at the end of this month. American astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will head outside the International Space Station on March 29 as part of the Expedition 59 crew at the International Space Station (ISS). They’ll be supported on the ground by flight director Mary Lawrence and Kristen Facciol as part of the flight control team, located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Coincidentally, the event takes place during Women’s History Month adding even more significance to the occasion.
The spacewalk marks McClain’s first time outside the ISS, where she currently resides, and Koch’s first spaceflight. Back in 1984, cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space. Since 1998, there have been 213 spacewalks at the space station. These events are pretty rare and only occur for repairs, maintenance or even to conduct experiments and test out any new equipment.
Though it’s a groundbreaking moment, it wasn’t intentional. A NASA spokesperson told Axios that the spacewalk was “not orchestrated to be this way.” It just so happened the crew aboard the ISS lead to this team up. And it’s no surprise since those on the ISS are from NASA’s 2013 class where women represented 50 percent of the team.
McClain, a major in the U.S. Army and a pilot, “wanted to be an astronaut from the time I was 3 or 4 years old,” she said in a 2015 NASA video interview. “I remember telling my mom at that time, and I never deviated from what I wanted to be. Something about exploration has fascinated me from a young age.”
McClain is currently part of the Expedition 58 crew that launched back in December 2018 and will also serve on Expedition 59. Koch meanwhile, will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 59 and 60, the former which launched March 14. Another spacewalk is meant to happen before the all-female one. McClain is scheduled to conduct another spacewalk alongside NASA astronaut Tyler "Nick" Hague on March 22.
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