1st all-female spacewalk, including Jewish astronaut, brought forward to Friday
search

1st all-female spacewalk, including Jewish astronaut, brought forward to Friday

NASA moves up operation due to power system failure at International Space Station; Jessica Meir, whose father is Israeli, to take part

In this image released by NASA on October 4, 2019, astronauts Christina Koch, right, and, Jessica Meir, left, pose on the International Space Station. (NASA via AP)
In this image released by NASA on October 4, 2019, astronauts Christina Koch, right, and, Jessica Meir, left, pose on the International Space Station. (NASA via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — NASA is moving up the first all-female spacewalk to this week because of a power system failure at the International Space Station.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir — a Swedish-American Jew whose father is Israeli — could now venture out Friday, instead of next Monday, to deal with the problem. It will be the first spacewalk by only women in more than a half-century of spacewalking.

A critical battery charger failed over the weekend, prompting the change, NASA officials said Monday. The women will replace the broken component, rather than install new batteries, which was their original job.

NASA originally planned an all-female spacewalk last spring, but had to cancel it because of a shortage of readily available medium-size suits. Koch helped assemble an extra medium suit over the summer.

“Very good that we have 4 expert spacewalkers on board to shoulder this tough task. They are the A-team!” tweeted astronaut Anne McClain, who would have gone spacewalking with Koch in March if not for the suit-sizing issue.

While all four — two men and two women — are equally trained for the repair job, Koch and Meir are the right choices given the future spacewalking workload, officials noted.

Since the first spacewalk in 1965, there have been 227 spacewalkers, only 14 of them women. Meir will be making her first spacewalk and become No. 15. All but one of these women has been American.

In this December 21, 2015 photo provided by NASA, Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly participates in a spacewalk outside the International Space Station in which he and Flight Engineer Tim Kopra, not pictured, moved the station’s mobile transporter rail car ahead of the docking of a Russian cargo supply spacecraft. (NASA via AP)

The upcoming spacewalk will be “absolutely … an exciting event,” said Megan McArthur, deputy chief of NASA’s astronaut corps. “The fact that it will be two women just is a reflection of the fact that we have so many capable, qualified women in the office.”

Last week, astronauts conducted the first two of five spacewalks to replace old batteries that make up the station’s solar power network. The remaining spacewalks — originally scheduled for this week and next — have been delayed for at least another few weeks so engineers can determine why the battery charger failed. It’s the second such failure this year.

The devices regulate the amount of charge going to and from each battery. One didn’t kick in Friday night, preventing one of the three newly installed lithium-ion batteries from working. The balky charger is 19 years old; the one that failed in the spring was almost as old. Only three spares remain available.

“It’s absolutely a concern at this point when you don’t know what’s going on,” said Kenny Todd, a space station manager. “We’re still scratching our heads looking at the data. Hopefully, we can clear that up in relatively short order.”

Despite the slight loss of power, the orbiting lab and its six occupants are safe, according to NASA, and science operations are unaffected. The current situation is “manageable, but again not something that we would want to live with in the long term,” Todd told reporters.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more:
comments