Astronaut Jessica Meir will make history this week when she and fellow astronaut Christina Koch become the first all-female team to conduct a spacewalk.

If the mission goes as planned, Meir and Koch will venture outside the International Space Station early Thursday or Friday to conduct some repairs.

The women are scheduled to replace a faulty Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU), which failed Oct. 11, NASA said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference. The malfunctioning, 19-year-old BCDU will be replaced with a new unit that weighs about 230 pounds. The astronauts will use a robotic arm to assist them.

“This probably is the most dangerous thing we do, putting our people in a spacesuit and sending them outside the station,” Kenny Todd, manager of International Space Station Operations Integration, told reporters.

Todd said the spacewalk will take about 3.5 hours to complete.

Meir had been scheduled for a spacewalk Wednesday with astronaut Andrew Morgan to continue work on upgrading the power system on the orbiting laboratory, but that was postponed when replacing the BCDU became a priority. Meir and Koch had initially been scheduled to go on their historic spacewalk Oct. 21.


The failure of the BCDU has not impacted station operations, the safety of the crew or ongoing experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory, NASA said in a statement. The station’s overall power supply, which is fed by four sets of batteries and solar arrays, remains sufficient for all operations.

“It (doing without the BCDU) is manageable, but not something we’d want to live with in the long run,” Todd told reporters. Another BCDU unit malfunctioned last spring.

The station’s overall power supply, fed by four sets of batteries and solar arrays, remains sufficient for all operations and has no impact on the crew’s safety or ongoing laboratory experiments, according to NASA. However, the failure of the power unit does prevent the new lithium-ion battery installed earlier this month from providing additional power.

Megan McArthur, an astronaut who currently serves as a deputy chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office, told reporters the fact that two female astronauts were chosen for the spacewalk had nothing to do with their gender. Going outside the station to conduct this type of repair is part of Meir and Koch’s standard astronaut training, McArthur said.

“It will be an exciting event, but in truth, this was the right crew to send out to do these tasks,” McArthur said.

“From our standpoint, everyone is qualified,” Todd added.


Todd declined to be more specific about which day the spacewalk would occur. He said the operation is complicated, involving dozens of NASA staff to oversee the mission. And, he said, it really doesn’t matter whether the walk occurs Thursday or Friday.

“We are still working through it,” Todd told reporters. “We want to make sure we have a good plan in place going out the door.”

Todd said Meir and Koch will start their spacewalk at 7:50 a.m. eastern standard time. NASA said it will notify news media well in advance of the spacewalk. NASA live TV coverage of the mission will begin at 5:30 a.m.

Meir is also scheduled for an Oct. 25 spacewalk with Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, but it was not immediately clear if that will take place then.

Meir arrived at the space station on Sept. 25. The 42-year-old flight engineer, who grew up in Caribou, always wanted to be an astronaut. When she was 5 years old, Meir drew a picture of herself as an astronaut and in her high school yearbook, she wrote that she wanted to go for a spacewalk.

She is the first woman astronaut from Maine and only the third astronaut from Maine overall.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the timing of the historic spacewalk in a tweet on Tuesday.

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