Two astronauts on board the International Space Station completed a seven-hour spacewalk on Friday, March 29 as part of the orbiting outpost's ongoing power upgrade.
NASA's Christina Koch and Nick Hague replaced the six nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries to power one of the station's solar arrays. The duo concluded their spacewalk at 2:27 p.m. EDT.
This was the 215th spacewalk performed by astronauts to build and maintain the ISS.
All-Female Spacewalk Canceled
NASA originally planned to send Anne McClain with Koch to install the new lithium-ion batteries, making it the first all-female spacewalk in history. However, some equipment issues forced the U.S. space agency to change their plans.
On Monday, March 25, NASA announced that Hague will replace McClain. The decision was made because both female astronauts wear medium-sized spacesuits, but only one was available at the time.
Apparently, NASA did not know that McClain wears a medium-sized spacesuit until March 22 when the astronaut participated in another spacewalk and found that the hard upper torso was too big for her. Stephanie Schierholz, a spokesperson for the space agency, clarified that there were two medium-sized spacesuits on board the ISS, but only one was ready to be used for the spacewalk.
Friday's mission made Koch the 14th women to complete a spacewalk for the ISS. Since 1965, 404 spacewalks have been performed, but only 39 involved a female astronaut.
NASA has yet to announce a new date for the first ever all-female spacewalk, but Schierholz is positive that it will happen in the near future. She said that the crew is diversifying, making an all-female spacewalk an inevitability.
Two spacewalks have been performed in March is part of the ongoing efforts to upgrade the ISS. In 2017, the Expedition 50 crew began replacing old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries.
By the end of Friday's spacewalk, a total of 48 nickel-hydrogen batteries have been replaced with 24 lithium-ion batteries. At least four more spacewalks are required to replace all the old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries, which are expected to last until the end of the space station's life.
The next spacewalk is scheduled on April 8 to establish a redundant path of power for the Canadarm2. David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will join McClain for the mission.