NASA has officially confirmed to CNN that the very first all-female spacewalk in history will take place at the International Space Station on March 29 during Women's History Month.
The team will be comprised of NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christine Koch, who will carry out the spacewalk as part of Expedition 59. Their support on the ground in Houston, Texas, will be Kristen Facciol, a Canadian Space Agency flight controller.
The announcement first came to the public’s attention when Facciol tweeted about her excitement on March 1.
I just found out that I’ll be on console providing support for the FIRST ALL FEMALE SPACEWALK with @AstroAnnimal and @Astro_Christina and I can not contain my excitement!!!! #WomenInSTEM #WomenInEngineering #WomenInSpace— Kristen Facciol (@kfacciol) March 1, 2019
NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz told CNN of the spacewalk: "As currently scheduled, the March 29 spacewalk will be the first with only women.”
In the official email statement to CNN, she continued, "It is the second in a series of three planned spacewalks. Anne also will join Nick Hague for the March 22 spacewalk. And, of course, assignments and schedules could always change."
It’s not just the astronauts and ground control who are women, either. Schierholz confirmed: "In addition to the two female spacewalkers, the Lead Flight Director is Mary Lawrence, and Jackie Kagey (also a woman), is the lead EVA (spacewalk) flight controller."
The spacewalk is expected to last approximately seven hours and was originally scheduled to take place in the fall. NASA has not yet confirmed a reason for the schedule change, but it feels incredibly fitting for it to take place during women’s history month.
Spacewalks are conducted for a variety of reasons including conducting experiments, testing equipment, doing work outside the spacecraft, and fixing satellites and other spacecraft. This will be the first spacewalk for both women involved.
While this is indeed the first all-female spacewalk, women in space are becoming more commonplace. McClain and Koch were both a part of a 2013 astronaut class, which was split evenly between men and women. NASA has also confirmed that the most recent class of flight directors was comprised of 50% women.
McClain is currently already on the International Space Station, as part of Expedition 58. Meanwhile, Koch is awaiting her first spaceflight, which is scheduled to take her up on March 14, for Expedition 59 and 60. She will be blasting off alongside Cmdr. Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague.
The spacewalk is currently listed on the NASA website and will be broadcast on NASA TV on March 29 at 6.30am Eastern time.