Maine astronaut Jessica Meir, the first woman from the state to go into space, made history Friday morning when she ventured outside the International Space Station for the first spacewalk ever conducted by two women.
Meir, a Caribou native, joined astronaut Christina Koch at 7:38 a.m. to replace a power controller that failed over the weekend, NASA said in a statement. The spacewalk will take about 5½ hours.
“As much as it’s worth celebrating the first spacewalk with an all-female team, I think many of us are looking forward to it just being normal,” said astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who watched the spacewalk from Mission Control. “If it signifies anything, it is to honor the women who came before us who were skilled and qualified and didn’t get the same opportunities we have today.”
This spacewalk is Koch’s fourth this year, according to NASA, and Meir’s first ever. Both started astronaut training in 2013.
“The astronauts will replace a battery charge/discharge unit that failed to activate after new lithium-ion batteries were installed on the space station’s exterior structure on Oct. 11,” NASA said in another statement.
Meir radioed to her support team around 9:30 a.m. that she was “doing well.”
About two hours into the spacewalk, the astronauts were completing repairs ahead of schedule, Caldwell Dyson said.
“Spacewalks are not easy; astronauts typically describe them as the most physically challenging thing they do,” the statement said.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a fellow Caribou native, applauded Meir in a tweet Friday morning.
“Congratulations, Jessica, on another remarkable accomplishment! We are all so proud. You continue to be an inspiration to students in our hometown of Caribou, across Maine, and throughout the country,” the tweet said.
This spacewalk isn’t the last time Caribou residents will watch Meir live in space. The astronaut will talk with students at the Caribou Performing Arts Center Oct. 29 live from the International Space Station, said Travis Barnes, the principal of Caribou High School.
At 7:38am ET, our #AllWomanSpacewalk officially started as @Astro_Christina & @Astro_Jessica set their spacesuits to battery power, marking the beginning of their 5.5 hour excursion outside of the @Space_Station to replace a failed power controller. Watch: https://t.co/2SIb9YXlRh— NASA (@NASA) October 18, 2019