Maine's Jessica Meir Makes History As Member Of NASA's First All-Women Spacewalk
Astronaut and Caribou native Jessica Meir was one of two astronauts taking part in NASA's first all-women spacewalk on Friday. That mission is conducting repairs on the International Space Station. And while the spacewalk pairing created a historic moment, for Meir and her colleague Jessica Koch, it's a normal — if exciting — day's work.
The first all-women spacewalk was supposed to happen in March, but it was postponed because NASA didn't have enough appropriately-sized space suits. The situation underlined the fact that there are far fewer female astronauts in NASA than there are men. Only 14 women have been on a space walk, according to the agency.
While outside the International Space Station, the astronauts worked to replace a failed battery unit and took care of some more routine tasks. These are jobs any astronaut is trained for — and NASA says the spacewalk wasn't planned as an event.
The historical moment is attracting public interest that isn't normally there for a spacewalk, according to NASA.
Meir says for her and Koch, this isn't just about gender — it's about the culmination of years of hard work.
“It's really interesting for us, we've talked a lot about it up here,” Meir says. “It's really for us just us doing our job — it's something that we've been training for for 6 years, and preparing for. At the same time we recognize it is an historic achievement.”
The historic nature of the spacewalk also caught the attention of the White House. President Donald Trump, called in to speak to the astronauts in space and congratulate them on doing something he doesn't think he'd be inclined to do: “I don't think I want to do it, I must tel lyou that, but you are amazing people.”
Trump asked the astronauts whether they had anything to say, especially to young women interested in space, and Meir said she and Koch hope their work as astronauts wouldn't just be noted because they're women.
“We hope that we can provide an inspiration to everybody, not only women, but everybody who has a big dream and is willing to make that big dream come true,” Meir says. “And that's something that all of us who have made our way up here have done all our lives, and I can tell you the hard work certainly did pay off.”
Meir is also scheduled for two other spacewalks, both next week. In both cases, she'll be partnered with astronauts who are men.
Originally published 3:32 p.m. Oct. 20, 2019