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NASA all women spacewalk makes history: ‘One giant leap for Womankind’

The spacewalk was originally scheduled for 5-and-a-half hours, but the crews successfully completed their main task and the mission was extended to more than seven hours so the astronauts could perform some additional jobs.

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NASA made history in the early hours of Friday when two astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch stepped outside the International Space Station to replace a faulty battery charger.

The all-female spacewalk – the first of its kind “in human history,” started around early in the morning. Eastern time as the two American astronauts set their suits to battery power mode.

Koch was first to venture out of the ISS with a red tether attached to her suit.

The spacewalk was originally scheduled for 5-and-a-half hours, but the crews successfully completed their main task and the mission was extended to more than seven hours so the astronauts could perform some additional jobs.

The historic float outside the orbiting laboratory into the vacuum of space came several months after another all-female spacewalk was cancelled because NASA did not have enough spacesuits in the right size. And it’s being heralded as a huge step forward for the agency at a time when NASA continues to work to highlight the contributions of women.

Taking to Twitter, Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass tweeted that, “One giant leap for WOMANkind!”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also appreciated Koch or Meir and said they have made history” and called them “an inspiration to women & girls across America.”

Russia holds claim to the first spacewalk in 1965 and also the first spacewalk by a woman in 1984. The US trailed by a few months in each instance.

During a press briefing before the spacewalk, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the agency would build on the astronauts’ efforts and send the “next man and the first woman” to the moon by 2024, an effort the agency has dubbed “Artemis” after the twin sister of Apollo.

In the Space Operations Center at NASA’s headquarters, Bridenstine watched the beginning of the spacewalk Friday with space station managers and a few members of Congress and pointed out that 15 women have now performed spacewalks.

Koch is scheduled to spend 328 days aboard the station – the longest ever by a woman – said that she embraced the historic significance of the adventure she was about to embark on.

In an interview with NPR from the space station, she said,”In the past, women haven’t always been at the table”.

“It’s wonderful to be contributing to the human spaceflight program at a time when all contributions are being accepted when everyone is having a role, and that can lead in turn to an increased chance of success”, she added.

Former President Barack Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted that “little girls growing up today will this historic event is perfectly normal.”

Both Koch and Meir were selected as part of NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, the first with an equal number of men and women. But women remain an overwhelming minority among the rank and file at NASA and the industry more broadly

President Donald Trump also congratulated both Koch and Meir via teleconference this afternoon.”You represent this country so well. Our country is very proud of you,” he said.

“First the moon and then we go to Mars,” Trump added

This milestone was scheduled to take place earlier this year in March, anticipated enthusiastically by those who have too often seen women marginalized in scientific pursuits.

Spacewalks are among the most gruelling work that astronauts undertake in space. They are physically taxing and mentally challenging, astronauts have said – like taking an exam while running a marathon.