1st all-woman spacewalk set to take place this week

Washington, Oct 17 (IANS) The first all-woman spacewalk is set to take place this week itself as NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are scheduled to venture outside the International Space Station (ISS) on October 17 or October 18.
The spacewalk will last approximately six and a half hours, according to NASA.
“@Space_Station update: our first all-female spacewalk with @Astro_Christina and @Astro_Jessica will be Thursday or Friday to replace a faulty battery charge-discharge unit,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted on Tuesday.
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).
The BCDU failed to activate following the October 11 installation of new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s truss.
NASA said that the BCDU failure has not impacted station operations, safety of the crew, or the ongoing experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory, many in preparation for future human missions to the Moon and Mars.
However, the failed power unit does prevent a new lithium-ion battery installed earlier this month from providing additional station power.
An all-woman spacewalk, involving Koch and NASA astronaut Anne McClain, was originally scheduled for March.
But that spacewalk was scuttled because properly fitted spacesuits could not be readied in time for both astronauts, Space.com reported.
So far, the 15 women who have conducted a spacewalk did so with a male companion. So when Koch and Meir venture out of the space station this week, they will make some long-overdue history.
This will be Koch’s fourth spacewalk and Meir’s first.
“The 1st woman and next man will go to the Moon in 2024. Today, we previewed the next generation #Artemis spacesuits that our astronauts will wear — 1 for launch and re-entry, and 1 for exploring the lunar South Pole,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted on Tuesday.
The spacesuit designed for exploring the Moon’s surface is called the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), and the one for launch and re-entry aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft is known as the Orion Crew Survival System, Xinhua reported.
The xEMU, a red, white and blue suit, is composed of the pressure garment and a life-supporting backpack, and it can protect the astronauts from radiation, temperature extremes and micrometeoroids, according to NASA.
One of its advantages compared with previous ones goes to its better mobility. At Tuesday’s launch event, a female NASA engineer who wore the xEMU for demonstration played deep squat, full arms spinning and delicate fingers movement with much ease.
The suit’s advanced mobility that enables them to accomplish much more complex tasks on the Moon’s surface is partly attributed to its joint bearings, instead of zippers, on the lower torso and upper torso.
Those bearings allow full rotation of the arm from shoulder to wrist, bending and rotating at the hips, increased bending at the knees and hiking-style boots with flexible soles, according to NASA.
The xEMU has a rear-entry hatch, so astronauts can climb into it from the back of the suit, allowing the shoulder elements of the hard upper torso to be closer together than the suits currently in use, thus enabling a better fit while reducing shoulder injury risks.
Also, the spacesuit is a modular one. Its helmet features a quick-swap protective visor that protects the pressurised bubble from any wear and tear or dents, and scratches from the abrasive dirt of planetary bodies.
It means that astronauts can replace only the visor before or after a spacewalk instead of sending an entire helmet back to Earth for repairs.
Before the first lunar landing in 1969, engineers worried that the lunar soil wouldn’t support the weight of a spacesuit and the astronaut inside, but now a greater danger is that the lunar soil is composed of tiny glass-like shards which may damage the suit.
Astronauts in the International Space Station will test the new spacesuits in the coming years and it will be used in a small space station in lunar orbit and on Mars.
Bridenstine also demonstrated the Orion Crew Survival System at the event. The orange suit will be worn during launch and re-entry of NASA’s new spacecraft to provide thermal protection for the astronauts in case of a depressurizing accident.

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