History will be made today (Oct. 18) high above Earth, and we all have a chance to watch.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are scheduled to conduct the first-ever all-female spacewalk early this morning. The duo will exit the International Space Station around 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT) on a five-to-six-hour excursion to replace a battery charge/discharge unit that failed last weekend. You can watch live here (opens in new tab) and on the Space.com homepage beginning at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT), courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency (opens in new tab).
Spacewalks have been performed by 14 different women over the years, according to NASA officials. But all of these spacewalkers were accompanied by a male colleague, so Koch and Meir will be breaking new ground.
"In the end, I do think it’s important, and I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing," Koch said in a recent interview.
"In the past, women haven’t always been at the table," she added. "It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space program at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role. That can lead in turn to increased chance for success. There are a lot of people who derive motivation from inspiring stories of people who look like them, and I think it’s an important story to tell."
The historic moment was originally supposed to occur in late March. But a planned spacewalk involving Koch and NASA astronaut Anne McClain was called off because two properly sized spacesuits could not be readied in time for the excursion. (McClain returned to Earth in June.)
NASA initially targeted Koch and Meir for an extravehicular activity on Oct. 21, as part of a series of spacewalks designed to install new batteries on the space station's exterior. But the failure of the power unit changed those plans.
- The International Space Station: Inside and Out (Infographic)
- Astronauts Complete First Spacewalk in Series to Upgrade Station Batteries
- 1st All-Female Spacewalk Scrapped Over Safety Concerns, Not Sexism
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.