Tristen Profenno / Illustrator

By: Alyson Peabody, Editor-in-Chief

On the list of future plans in her high school yearbook, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir wrote “go for a spacewalk.” On October 18, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir completed the first-ever all-female spacewalk. They spent nearly eight hours working outside of the International Space Station (ISS) replacing a broken power unit.

This was Koch’s fourth spacewalk and Meir’s first.

Koch and Meir paused their work five hours into the spacewalk to speak with President Trump in the White House, according to the Portland Press Herald. During the call, Meir gave credit to the women who came before her, saying “the hard work certainly did pay off.”

Women all over the world have been pivotal to exploring space both in the air and on the ground.
Three African-American women at NASA — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — were the mathematicians whose calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflight that launched astronaut John Glenn into orbit.
The first woman in space, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, was selected from more than 400 applicants to launch on the Vostok 6 mission on June 16, 1963.

Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya flew on the Soyuz T-7 mission August 19, 1982 and was the first woman to conduct a spacewalk in 1984.

In June 1983, NASA astronaut Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space when she launched on the STS-7 mission on the space shuttle Challenger.

British chemist Helen Sharman became the first British person to fly in space in 1991. She became the first person to visit the Mir space station aboard the Soyuz TM-12.

Roberta Bondar became Canada’s first female astronaut when she flew on the STS-42 space shuttle mission in 1992.

NASA astronaut Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel to space when she flew on space shuttle Endeavour in September 1992.

Chiaki Mukai became the first Japanese woman in space, representing the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). Mukai flew on the space shuttle Columbia during mission STS-65 in July 1994. At the time, she set the record for the longest flight by a female astronaut.

Doctor Claudie Haigneré became the first and only French woman to travel to space when she flew to the Russian space station Mir in 1996. In 2001, she became the first European woman to visit the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Eileen Collins was the first woman to command a space shuttle mission that required an astronaut to have at least 1,000 hours of experience piloting jet aircraft. Collins commanded the STS-93 space shuttle mission in July 1999. She then went on to command a second time in July 2005.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson was the first woman to command the International Space Station in April 2008 during Expedition 16. In 2016, she became the first woman to command the space station twice when she took command of Expedition 51. Whitson holds the record for being the oldest woman in space, having returned from her final mission at the age of 57.

According to CNN, over the past 35 years twelve US women have conducted 40 spacewalks. Now, Koch and Meir are thirteenth and fourteenth.

Koch and Meir are included in the list of 12 women that could be the first female astronaut on the moon in 2024.

“I will probably at least know the first woman to walk on the moon,” Koch said to CNN. “They will carry the hopes and dreams of everyone to explore with them.”

One small step for women; one giant leap for humanity.


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