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Nasa astronauts complete historic all-female spacewalk

Friday’s feat is the 43rd spacewalk to include a woman but the first all-female trip.

Nasa astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exit the International Space Station (Nasa via AP)
Nasa astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exit the International Space Station (Nasa via AP)

By Jess Glass, PA

Two astronauts have completed the first-ever female-only spacewalk at the International Space Station (ISS) after more than seven hours.

US astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history as they floated out of the orbiting space laboratory to replace a faulty power unit.

The spacewalk was a first for Ms Meir, who has become the 15th woman to venture out of the ISS, and Ms Koch’s fourth spacewalk.

There have been 221 spacewalks in total, with spacewalkers spending a total of 57 days, 20 hours and 29 minutes in the vacuum.

Friday’s feat is the 43rd spacewalk to include a woman, but the first all-female trip.

Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, who is also the mission commander, and Nasa flight engineer Andrew Morgan assisted the spacewalkers as they worked outside of the station.

The astronauts exited from the space station’s Quest airlock, with Ms Koch the first to leave the hatch followed by Ms Meir 12 minutes ahead of schedule.

After several hours outside of the craft, the pair received a call from US President Donald Trump, who congratulated the pair.

He said: “Well Christina and Jessica I would just like to, if I could, just thank you.

“Jessica I know you’ve being doing this and you’ve been working hard and Christina I’ve studied your resume it’s really incredible what you’ve done, what you’ve both done.”

The US President continued: “I just want to congratulate you – what you do is incredible. You are very brave people. I don’t think I want to do it, I must tell you that but you are amazing people.

“This is truly historic – you are now on TV all over the world so don’t get nervous.”

Ms Meir replied: “We don’t want to take too much credit because there have been many female spacewalkers before us. This is just the first time that there’s been two women outside at the same time.

“For us this is really just us doing our jobs. At the same time we recognise it is a historic achievement.

“I’ve only been up here about three weeks and this is my first flight and my very first spacewalk and it’s a pretty incredible feeling.”

The spacewalk was originally planned to last five-and-a-half hours, but the two astronauts extended it to seven hours 17 minutes to complete some additional tasks.

The US space agency initially planned an all-female spacewalk in March – which included Ms Koch and fellow astronaut Anne McClain – but had to cancel it because of a shortage of medium-size suits.

Nasa has previously announced plans to send the first woman to the moon by 2024 as part of the ongoing Artemis programme.

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The route astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir took for their spacewalk (PA Graphics)

In a recent interview, Ms Koch spoke about the significance of this spacewalk, saying: “I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing.

“In the past women haven’t always been at the table.

“It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space programme at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role.

“That can lead in turn to increased chance for success. There are a lot of people who derive motivation from inspiring stories of people who look like them, and I think it’s an important story to tell.”

PA

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