One small step for women, one giant leap for womankind — and it's all happening sooner than you thought. The first space walk in human history happened in 1965, and decades later, the first women-only space walk was scheduled for Oct. 21, 2019. However, the date of the all-women space walk just got bumped up, meaning astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will be making history on Oct. 17 or 18 instead.
The date of the first all-women space walk was actually changed because of a battery failure, NASA reported. So, in addition to venturing out earlier than expected, Koch and Meir will have a slightly different mission. The original mission was to change 48 aging batteries or BDCUs at the International Space Station over the span of 10 space walks. But after discovering one of the BDCUs was broken, the mission shifted to repairing it, and rescheduling the replacements for later on.
This isn't the first time the all-women space walk has been rescheduled. It was originally set for March of 2019 but was then postponed because of a lack of properly-fitting spacesuits for the astronauts. This problem was resolved over the summer after engineers created better-fitting space suits, with the help of Koch herself, The Huffington Post reports. As for the BDCUs, this is the second time since April that there's been a power glitch, according to Space.com. While the BDCU that had a glitch in April is now back on Earth and being examined, the BDCU that is going to be repaired later this week will be brought back in a few months so that both units can be compared and the problem can be assessed.
The date change for Koch's and Meir's historic space walk will affect the rest of the schedule as well, according to NASA. There were supposed to be three space walks scheduled for Oct. 16, Oct. 21, and Oct. 25, according to CBS News. But because of the broken BDCU, these have been postponed. Though a broken battery seems like a pretty big deal, NASA insists it's not putting any astronauts in danger. "The BCDU failure has not impacted station operations, safety of the crew, or the ongoing experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory, many in preparation for future human missions to the Moon and Mars," the federal agency said in a press release on Oct. 15. But while one broken BDCU isn't seriously dangerous, it still hinders the space station from reaching its full power potential. Aside from this, the International Space Station is perfectly capable of powering all necessary operations.
While this is Meir's first spacewalk, this is Koch's fourth. But every other spacewalk she's completed was done with a male companion. This is also true for each of the other 15 women who have completed a spacewalk. Not only will Meir be the 16th woman to complete a spacewalk, but she will be the first (alongside Koch) to do it without a man. Together, Koch and Meir will be the first to embark on a journey that has been long overdue.