History-making all-female spacewalk is back on, NASA says

Two female astronauts will get another chance to make history with an all-female spacewalk.

U.S. astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will walk outside the International Space Station (ISS) together on Oct. 21, NASA announced Monday.

Their walk will come seven months after NASA had to cancel its first attempt at a history-making all-female spacewalk because the space station did not have enough medium-size spacesuits onboard.

Koch and another astronaut, Anne McClain, were supposed to make history with an all-female 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.

Since the cancellation of the female spacewalk in March, NASA has been preparing its spacesuits for a series of 10 spacewalks, the first of which happened on Sunday.

The International Space Station is now equipped to make four complete spacewalking suits, with two "hard upper torso" components of the same size be available at any time, according to NASA.

Astronauts will typically be outside the space station for six to seven hours during a spacewalk, which is defined by NASA as "anytime an astronaut gets out of a vehicle while in space."

Koch and Meir will plug in upgraded batteries for the solar power system when the conduct their spacewalk on Oct. 21.

The two astronauts both joined NASA in 2013, the year NASA's astronaut class was 50 percent 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.

Koch and Meir were asked in an interview from space on Friday about whether they mind having their accomplishments qualified by their gender, i.e. the first all-female spacewalk and longest spaceflight by a woman.

"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 stores from people that look like them and I think it's an important aspect of the story to tell," she said.

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."
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