It won't be an ordinary Women's History Month, at least for NASA. Christina Koch and Anne McClain will be the first all-female crew to do a spacewalk.
Koch and McClain will do the task as part of Expedition 59 at the International Space Station. It will also be one of the three scheduled spacewalks and will take about seven hours.
McClain is already in space after she arrived onboard the three-manned Soyuz MS-11, which took flight on Dec 3. It was way ahead of its actual schedule due to the failure of Soyuz MS-10, which resulted in an aborted mission. She will carry out her first spacewalk with Nick Hague on March 22.
Meanwhile, Koch will be in Soyuz MS-12, which will depart on March 14. It will still be a three-person manned flight.
An 'Accidental' Spacewalk History
In a letter to CNN confirming the all-female spacewalk, Stephanie Schierholz clarified the pairing was accidental.
"It was not orchestrated to be this way; these spacewalks were originally scheduled to take place in the fall," she said. She also suggested that plans, including assignments, may still change depending on the circumstances.
Still, it is a massive shout-out to women in space, especially since females will also be in the controls. The lead flight director is Mary Lawrence while the spacewalk flight controller is Jackie Kagey.
On Earth, another female, Kristen Facciol, will be at the helm of the console, helping guide the spacewalk. Facciol is a flight controller for the Canadian Space Agency but will be working at NASA's Johnson Space Center during the walk.
Facciol is also one of the first to report the pairing in her tweet 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
More Women Conquer the Universe
Koch and McClain are no strangers to each other. Both of them are part of Astronaut Group 21 or NASA's class of 2013.
The application process took more than a year, during which the space administration received the second-highest number of applicants at 6,100. So far, only the class of 2017 beat it by 12,000.
NASA eventually selected eight people comprised of four men and four women. This means the batch has the highest percentage of female finalists in history.
The group was also popular for being diverse. Prior to joining NASA, McClain graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and was a test pilot. She flew over 200 combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She is also a recipient of many awards including Bronze Star Medal.
Koch, meanwhile, has an extensive background in remote scientific field engineering and development of space science instrument. She holds a master's degree in electrical engineering from the North Carolina State University.
However, before them, in the 1960s, the Hidden Figures women already helped send John Glenn to become the first American to orbit the Earth three times.
Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova also made history by being the first woman to reach space, spending three days there onboard Vostok 6.