Two female astronauts are close to accomplishing something no women have done before.
U.S. astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will step outside the International Space Station Friday morning, the first time in history that two women have done a spacewalk together.
Koch and Meir are expected to spend more than five hours outside the space station to replace a failed power controller, according to NASA.
The remaining four astronauts aboard the International Space Station, all men, will remain inside while Koch and Meir complete their work.
NASA is marking Friday’s “HERstory in the making” by asking schoolteachers to share photos of their students celebrating the spacewalk, according to The Associated Press. NASA has a “HERstory” oral history project documenting the experiences of women who have contributed to the space agency.
Koch and Meir both joined NASA in 2013, the year NASA’s astronaut class was 50% female. Koch is also on her way to making history with a 300-day mission, which will be the longest single spaceflight by a woman.
The astronauts were asked in an interview from space earlier this month about whether they mind having their accomplishments qualified by their gender.
“In the end I do think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing and in the past, women haven’t always been at the table,” Koch said on NASA TV. “And it’s wonderful to be contributing to the human spaceflight program at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role, and that in turn can lead to an increased chance for success.”
“There are a lot of people that derive motivation from inspiring stories from people that look like them and I think it’s an important aspect of the story to tell,” she said.
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Meir added, “What we’re doing now shows all the work that went in decades prior. All the women that worked to get us where we are today. I think the nice thing for us is we don’t even really think about it on a daily basis. It’s just normal. We’re part of the team.”
Koch and Meir’s spacewalk comes seven months after NASA had to cancel its first attempt at making “HERstory,” because the space station did not have enough medium-size spacesuits on board.
Koch and another astronaut, Anne McClain, were supposed to make the first all-women spacewalk back in March.
When Koch and McClain, who is no longer on the ISS, discovered they both needed to wear a size medium in the “hard upper torso,” or the shirt of the spacesuit, the walk was canceled.
NASA faced swift backlash from people who viewed the spacewalk cancellation as yet another sign of women being held back on the job.
The decision by NASA though was largely one borne out of logistics, as there are a limited number of spacesuits on the space station and NASA has lacked the funds to update its spacesuits in recent years.
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Since the cancellation of the female spacewalk in March, NASA has been preparing its spacesuits for a series of 10 spacewalks.
The International Space Station is now equipped to make four complete spacewalking suits, with two “hard upper torso” components of the same size to be available at any time, according to NASA.