What You Need to Know About NASA Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir Making History’s First All-Female Space Walk
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history today in the first all-female spacewalk, USA Today reports. They left the International Space Station shortly before 8:00 a.m. to replace a broken battery unit. These units used to be replaced using robotic arms (and what we're sure is the most epic handheld game controller) but this particular battery is too far away for that robotic arm to reach.
The power unit that Koch and Meir replaced is called a Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU) according to a release from NASA. The ISS is powered by twenty-four BCDUs and an array of solar panels. The BCDUs collect energy from the solar panels and use this energy to power the ISS through nighttime orbits. This failed battery unit was inhibiting a newer lithium-ion battery from producing increased station power. Not to worry, the ISS has remained fully-operational and neither the crew nor any of their scientific experiments on-board were impacted.
As of today there have been 421 spacewalks over the past fifty years. One reason it has taken this long for us to have an all-female team perform these routine EVAs (extravehicular activities) is because NASA lacked enough spacesuits that fit. According to National Geographic, spacesuit fit is critical: improperly-fitting spacesuits can actually wear you out and even cause bodily harm. We're willing to overlook the question of why NASA lacks spacesuits designed to fit women in the name of examining greater issues surrounding the spacesuit shortage including their limited numbers (eleven as of two years ago), outdated technology (they were designed in the 70s), short lifespans (they should be retired after fifteen years) and absolutely insane cost of production (originally $22 million, up to $250 million today). It's not so much that NASA doesn't have spacesuits for women – it barely has spacesuits for anyone.
With NASA's new Artemis program spearheading human exploration on the Moon and Mars, new designs are (finally) underway. NASA just released two new spacesuit prototypes – check them out in the video below: