March 29, 2020
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Maine astronaut Jessica Meir will go on historic spacewalk Friday

NASA | BDN
NASA | BDN
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools they will use on their first spacewalk together. The Expedition 61 flight engineers are holding the pistol grip tools they will use to swap out a failed power controller, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit, that regulates the charge to batteries that collect and distribute power to the International Space Station.

Aroostook County native Jessica Meir will venture outside the International Space Station on Friday morning into the vastness of space — and history.

Meir and fellow astronaut Christina Koch were originally scheduled for a spacewalk on Monday, but NASA accelerated those plans after a newly-installed battery unit failed. Now the pair will go to the far side of the space station to replace that unit in what will become the first all-female spacewalk, according to NASA.

That comes almost seven months after NASA scrapped its planned all-female spacewalk by Koch and Anne McClain because it did not have two properly fitted space suits.

The spacewalk is scheduled to start at 7:50 a.m. and last more than five hours. NASA Television will begin its live coverage of the spacewalk at 6:30 a.m. It will be livestreamed on the BDN’s website.

“What we’re doing now shows all the work that went in for the decades prior [and] all the women that worked to get us where we are today,” Meir told NASA TV earlier this month when asked about the milestone. “The nice thing for us is we don’t even think about it on a daily basis. It’s just normal, we’re just part of the team, and we’re doing this work as an efficient team working together with everybody else. It’s really nice to see how far that we’ve come.”

Meir, who is from Caribou, arrived on Sept. 25 at the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and Emirati astronaut Hazz Al Mansouri. She will be stationed there until spring 2020.

Meir, the valedictorian of Caribou High School’s Class of 1995, was among three women and four men selected from 6,100 applicants in 2013 for NASA’s 21st class of astronauts. She is the third Mainer, and first Maine woman, to enter into outer space, the others being Christopher Cassidy, a York High School graduate who has completed six spacewalks and served as the nation’s chief astronaut from 2013 to 2017, and Charles O. Hobaugh, a Bar Harbor native who has made three spaceflights.

Her partner for Friday’s spacewalk, Koch, is also a member of the 21st class of astronauts. Koch is slated to set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman with an expected total of 328 days in space, according to NASA.

After the battery unit failed following its Oct. 11 installation, NASA postponed a series of spacewalks scheduled for this month, including three for Meir. Space station managers will investigate the cause of the failure after Meir and Koch complete Friday’s mission. The remaining spacewalks to install three new battery units will be rescheduled, NASA said.

 


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