For the first time in history, and coincidentally during Women’s History Month, an all-female crew will conduct a spacewalk at the International Space Station later this month.
The Women’s History Month timing wasn’t purposeful. NASA spokeswoman Kathryn Hambleton told HuffPost that the spacewalk was originally supposed to take place in the fall. Hambleton also said that assignments and schedules could change, so there’s still the chance that the spacewalk will end up not being all-female. For now, though, McClain and Koch are the only astronauts scheduled for that particular walk.
In addition to McClain and Koch, the spacewalk flight controller and on-the-ground flight control team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are also all women: flight controller Jackie Kagey, lead flight director Mary Lawrence and NASA engineer Kristen Facciol.
Facciol Tweeted about the announcement, sharing her excitement to be part of the history-making moment.
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 that the scheduled spacewalk is actually the second in a series of three that are planned, and that McClain will join astronaut Nick Hauge on the March 22 spacewalk, one week before the scheduled walk with Koch.
McClain and Koch are both from the 2013 astronaut class, which was made up of around 50 percent women. McClain is currently a part of the Expedition 58/59 crew that launched to the International Space Station last December, while Koch will serve aboard the International Space Station as a flight engineer for Expedition 59 and 60.
According to NASA, spacewalks are necessary and done for a variety of reasons, like working on the spacecraft, doing science experiments and testing new equipment. They can even repair satellites or spacecraft that are still in space without having to bring them back to Earth.
You can watch McClain and Koch’s spacewalk online via NASA TV beginning at 6:30 a.m. EST on Friday, March 29.