NASA says that history's first all-female spacewalk is set to take place this week after it was cancelled back in March due to a lack of medium-sized spacesuits.
In a Tuesday morning tweet, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will be going outside the International Space Station "to replace a faulty battery discharge unit" either on Thursday or Friday.
.@Space_Station update: our first all-female spacewalk with @Astro_Christina and @Astro_Jessica will be Thursday or… https://t.co/PLYXoeOcfP— Jim Bridenstine (@Jim Bridenstine)1571152962.0
A Monday night NASA blog post details that the piece of equipment being replaced failed over the weekend.
"Station managers decided to postpone previously planned spacewalks that had been set to install new batteries this week and next in order to replace the faulty power unit, called a Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU)," NASA says. "The station's overall power supply, which is fed by four sets of batteries and solar arrays, remains sufficient for all operations, and the failed unit has no impact on the crew's safety or ongoing laboratory experiments. However, the failed power unit does prevent a new lithium-ion battery installed earlier this month from providing additional station power."
Koch was set to do the historic spacewalk back in the spring with fellow astronaut Anne McClain — who has since been accused of committing the first-ever crime in space — but it was cancelled because NASA couldn't find enough space-ready medium-sized spacesuits to pull it off.
A March report at NPR explained that McClain was switched out of the walk because, while she trained in both large and medium spacesuit torsos, she found that a medium "was a better fit for her in space," during a prior spacewalk. Of the two medium suits on the space station, only one was already prepped and NASA decided that it made more sense to switch out astronauts than take the time to get it ready.
The decision to restaff the mission drew criticisms of sexism at the time.
"We put a man on the moon but we can't find a spacesuit that fits a woman by Friday," remarked Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. McClain, however, later explained that the mission decision was made on her own recommendation.
The all-female spacewalk had been originally been rescheduled for early next week, according to a NASA announcement made earlier this month.