In July 1984, cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space. At the end of March, 35 years after that historic occasion, two women will conduct the first all-female space walk.
NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch, with support from Canadian Space Agency flight controller Kristen Facciol in Houston, will perform a spacewalk scheduled for March 29. It will be the first time a spacewalk will involve only women.
Facciol broke the news on Twitter on March 1:
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
In a statement emailed to CNN, NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz confirmed the news on March 6, saying "As currently scheduled, the March 29 spacewalk will be the first with only women. It is the second in a series of three planned spacewalks. Anne also will join Nick Hague for the March 22 spacewalk. And, of course, assignments and schedules could always change.
"It was not orchestrated to be this way; these spacewalks were originally scheduled to take place in the fall," Schierholz added. "In addition to the two female spacewalkers, the Lead Flight Director is Mary Lawrence, and Jackie Kagey (also a woman), is the lead EVA (spacewalk) flight controller."
The spacewalk is slated to begin at 6:30 a.m. EST, and it should last for about seven hours. It will stream on all of NASA's channels.
McClain and Koch were both selected to be astronauts in 2013. Their astronaut class, Group 21, is comprised of four men and four women, the highest percentage of women in a NASA astronaut class. The other two women from the group, Jessica Meir and Nicole Aunapu Mann, are currently awaiting flight assignments.
"I think it's actually just a reflection of how many really talented women are in science and engineering these days," NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins told The New York Times in 2013 about Group 21.
McClain arrived aboard the International Space Station in December 2018, a member of the Expedition 58/59 crew. Koch is scheduled to launch into space this week as part of the Expedition 59/60 crew.
Spacewalks are conducted for a range of reasons, from performing experiments outside of the International Space Station to testing and repairing equipment.