It’s a long time coming, but news from NASA this week sees women astronauts make history
When we mention NASA in 2019, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were referencing Ariana Grande, but in this case, it’s actual space that’s the hot topic.
It was announced this week that the first ever all-female spacewalk will take place at the International Space Station on 29 March 2019. (Spacewalk, for those less well versed in space terminology, is making a journey out of the spacecraft).
It’s been 55 years since the first woman, Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, was launched into space, and despite the passing of over half a century, gender diversity in space teams has remained low. Shockingly, although there have been 213 spacewalks at the ISS since 1998, none have been led by women, with teams either all-male, or only featuring a handful of women.
This all-women team is a perfect opportunity for female astronauts and flight control members to finally take centre stage – and do it together.
The team will be headed by Astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain as they will set out to replace batteries that were installed last year. The full walk is estimated to take around seven hours.
Both Koch and McClain were part of the class of 2013 at NASA which was 50% female. This only goes to show that the problem isn’t a lack of women at NASA, and begs the question, why has it taken so long to get them out into space together? They are also going to be supported on the ground by flight team Mary Lawrence and Kristen Facciol.
“I cannot contain my excitement” tweeted Facciol. Her sentiment was echoed by people on Twitter, with one user responding that she was “looking forward to watching the first ‘unmanned’ spacewalk”. How about one that’s well and truly womanned instead?
Whilst this announcement is certainly out-of-this-world, it’s important to remember that women still make up very small proportions of our ‘nauts in space, with women making up less than 11% of people in space. Also in 60 years of space flight, there have only been four times when missions included two female members who were trained for spacewalks.
Stephanie Schierholz, NASA’s public affairs officer stressed that this needs to change, and that equality needs to become common-place. Diversity within NASA needs to become part of their make-up, but this spacewalk is at least a step in the right direction.
Here’s to more inspiring women taking on the final frontier together.
Stylist’s Visible Women campaign raises awareness of women’s achievements and empowers future generations to follow their lead. See more from Visible Women here.