On March 20, 2019, the first all-female space walk will take place. Astronuats Christina Koch and Anne McClain will go outside the International Space Station to work to replace nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. This continues the ongoing work to upgrade the station’s power storage capacity.
Of course, females have been astronauts for a long time. Sally Ride became the first American woman to go into space when she flew on the space shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983. Many countries — Canada, France, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom — have sent women into orbit or space on Russian or US missions. And this isn’t the first time a female astronaut has done a space walk. There have been 213 space walks on the International Space Station. The first woman to walk in space was a cosmonaut, Svetlana Savitskaya. She was on her second mission when she space-walked on July 17, 1984 as part of Salyut 7-EP2.
Sunita Williams, Astronaut & Space Walker
One interesting female astronaut is Sunita Williams, Captain, U.S. Navy. She made seven spacewalks for a total of 50 hours and 40 minutes, putting her #9 in the list of most experienced space walkers. For females, she’s only surpassed by Peggy Whitson who has ten spacewalks for a total of 50 hours and 21 minutes.
While on the International Space Station (ISS), Sunita did many animal experiments. We’ve chronicled one such story in NEFERTIT, THE SPIDERNAUT. This spread shows her holding the spider habitat aboard the ISS. A Johnson jumping spider was sent to space for an interesting experiment. Most spiders spin webs to catch food. But jumping spiders actively hunt their prey and jump to catch their food. But what would happen is a spider was sent to a micro-gravity environment such as the ISS?
Nefertiti was video taped for two weeks while she hunted in her habitat. She learned to hunt by putting down an anchoring thread, then jumping. Like a bungee cord, the thread pulled her back to the habitat’s surface. When she returned to Earth, she had to re-learn how to hunt.
When I interviewed Sunita for the book, she said that after the experiment was over, she had a choice. She could have packed the spider away and let her die. However, she liked having something living beside her in the ISS. She set Nefertiti’s habitat near her desk. Sunita said that the spider’s eyes would follow her as she moved about the cabin space. Because of Sunita’s care of Nefertiti, she survived to come back to Earth.
Watch the March 2019 Space Walks here.