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Science Bytes: NASA (All Female Spacewalk)

US astronauts make history with first all-female spacewalk – NASA (All Female Spacewalk)

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In News: NASA (All Female Spacewalk)

  • NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch have carried out the First all-women spacewalk in history. Their mission was to carry out repairs on the International Space Station.
NASA (All Female Spacewalk)
Jessica Meir and Christina Koch

News Summary:

  • The spacewalk by Jessica Meir and Christina Koch marked the first time in a half-century of spacewalking that women floated out of the space station without a male crewmate.
  • Meir, making her spacewalking debut, became the 228th person in the world to conduct a spacewalk and the 15th woman.
  • It was the fourth spacewalk for Koch, who is seven months into an 11-month mission that will be the longest ever by a woman.

Related news – Upgraded Spacesuit unveiled by NASA:

  • The reusable EMUs currently in use were developed in 1974 and have been refurbished and redesigned many times since then.
  • Recently, NASA unveiled its next generation of spacesuits.
  • xEMU Suit:
    • One kind, called xEMU, will improve upon suits previously worn during the Apollo era and those that are currently in use for carrying out spacewalks outside the ISS.
    • The xEMU suits will be worn by astronauts on the Artemis mission to the Moon.
  • Orion suit:
    • The Orion suit, meanwhile, is designed for a custom fit and incorporates safety technology and mobility features that will help protect astronauts during launch.
    • The Orion suit will also be helpful in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth.

Significance:

  • The feat assumes significance, as much fewer women have been in space than men. Of the more than 560 people who have been in space around the world, only 65 have been women.
  • Such achievements, help in inspiring many young girls and women in the domain of science.
  • Bodies of men and women are different and they function differently in space, hence as more women get to be a part of such missions, it will further facilitate in opening up the ‘space’ for women.
  • It also throws light on the fact that there is a significant increase in the number of women in the underlying structure of the astronaut corps.
  • There are many qualified women running the control, running space centers, commanding the station and commanding spaceships.

The previous all-women spacewalk plan was dropped due to spacesuit issues:

  • The first all-women spacewalk was originally meant to happen on March 29. Koch was one of the astronauts then, too, the other being Anne McClain.
  • It did not happen because the International Space Station did not have enough spacesuits of McClain’s size.
  • While NASA is generally regarded as being sensitive to gender issues, it was criticized on this issues with lack of availability of the right spacesuit for women seen as a sign of NASA’s structural problems with regard to women astronauts.

About: Spacesuit or Extravehicular Mobility Unit:

  • A spacesuit, or Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), is worn to be able to work outside the space station.
  • Spacesuits provide astronauts with oxygen supply while they are in the vacuum of space and the suits also give them protection against extreme temperatures, radiation and space dust.
  • An EMU consists of components such as the upper torso, lower torso, gloves and arms, which are manufactured in different sizes and assembled together in combinations that fits an astronaut best.
  • Further, spacesuits need to be configured to an astronaut’s body size before a spacewalk, which can take up to 12 hours, while putting on a spacesuit takes 45 minutes.
  • Hence to avoid delay and for safety reasons, the swap was necessary in McClain’s case, which sparked widespread criticism.

Also Read: International Concerns: (Venezuela elected to UNHRC)

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