This morn­ing, NASA astro­nauts Jes­si­ca Meir and Christi­na Koch are recre­at­ing their his­to­ry-mak­ing all-female space­walk. The pair will head out­side the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion today to do some more upgrades. It’ll be just the sec­ond time in his­to­ry that two women have suit­ed up — with­out any men — and per­formed a space­walk togeth­er. And if all goes to plan, the pair could do it all again next week.

The pur­pose of today’s space­walk isn’t all that remark­able, oth­er­wise. Koch and Meir are tasked with con­tin­u­ing the mul­ti­year process of swap­ping out bat­ter­ies on the out­side of the ISS. For decades, the space sta­tion relied on nick­el-hydro­gen bat­ter­ies to store ener­gy gen­er­at­ed by the vehicle’s solar pan­els. But since 2017, NASA has been peri­od­i­cal­ly replac­ing these old bat­ter­ies with new­er lithi­um-ion bat­ter­ies. The new bat­ter­ies are lighter, hold more of a charge, and are sup­posed to last much longer than the orig­i­nals.

With today’s space­walk and anoth­er sched­uled for Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 20th, Koch and Meir are set to fin­ish up this bat­tery upgrade by replac­ing the last few nick­el-hydro­gen bat­ter­ies still in use on the out­side of the sta­tion. When com­plete, all eight pow­er chan­nels on the ISS will be ful­ly upgrad­ed, with three lithi­um-ion bat­ter­ies con­nect­ed to each chan­nel.

Koch and Meir are set to fin­ish up a bat­tery upgrade

This will be the sec­ond space­walk for Meir and the fifth for Koch, who just broke the record for the longest con­tin­u­ous stay in space by a woman. Back in March 2019, Koch was orig­i­nal­ly slat­ed to per­form the first all-female space­walk with anoth­er woman — Anne McClain, who was her crew­mate at the time. Ulti­mate­ly, McClain decid­ed to swap out of the space­walk, since there wasn’t an avail­able space­suit in her size. A male col­league, NASA astro­naut Nick Hague, wound up tak­ing her place, which led to uproar from those who were look­ing for­ward to the his­to­ry-mak­ing endeav­or.

Then in Octo­ber, NASA final­ly got its chance at a do-over. After launch­ing a new crew — and a new space­suit — to the ISS, every­thing lined up per­fect­ly for Koch and Meir to per­form a space­walk togeth­er. Up until that moment, every space­walk in his­to­ry had includ­ed at least one man in a space­suit. But in Octo­ber, all of the men on board the ISS stayed inside.

After next week, NASA will be able to boast that it has facil­i­tat­ed three all-female space­walks, soon mak­ing the feat not so news­wor­thy. Once Meir and Koch are through, the next space­walk will involve NASA astro­naut Andrew Mor­gan and Luca Par­mi­tano of the Euro­pean Space Agency, who will update a sci­en­tif­ic instru­ment on the out­side of the ISS that detects cos­mic rays. But it’s still pos­si­ble that Koch and Meir could ven­ture out into space togeth­er after that — and with mul­ti­ple small­er-sized space­suits on the sta­tion right now, we could see even more all-female space­walks in the months and years ahead.

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