They Came, They Saw, They Conquered!

October 26, 2019

Have you ever watched your parents replace a lightbulb? It might have involved climbing up and balancing on a ladder to remove the dead bulb in order to replace it with a new one. Now, imagine if you had to do something similar but in outer space! A difficult task that takes a great amount of training and skills? Absolutely!

Credit NASA

It was the 221st spacewalk ever to be performed, but it was the first time that a spacewalk was performed and completed by an all-female team. Earlier this month, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir replaced a faulty battery charger to help increase power to the International Space Station so that it would continue to run at full capacity. It was a spectacular moment in space history, but what made this spacewalk even more special for Meir and Koch?

Credit NASA (Meir and Koch)

They’re NASA classmates! Both women were chosen to be a part of NASA’s class of astronauts in 2013, where half of the class were women. To celebrate Koch and Meir’s great achievement, we’re sharing interesting facts about some of the other women who have made a huge impact in space exploration.

-This is not the first time that women have performed spacewalks. The first woman to perform a spacewalk was Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya in 1984. She welded for nearly four hours outside of the Salyut 7 space station! In July of that same year, NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan became the first female American astronaut to perform a spacewalk.

Katherine Johnson
Photo Credit: NASA

-Katherine Johnson is a mathematician who helped make the calculations to send a man to the moon. She also made the calculations for future space flights and was known as a human computer.

-Mary Jackson was the first African American mathematician and aerospace engineer to join the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which later became NASA.

-Dorothy Vaughan was a mathematician who was also known as a human computer. She taught herself and her team FORTRAN, a computer programming language, in order to transition NASA to computers.

-In 1939, Kitty Joyner joined NASA as the first female engineer. Doubly interesting? She was also the first woman to graduate from the University of Virginia’s engineering program.

via NASA.org Credit: Courtesy MIT Musuem

-Margaret Hamilton coined the term “software engineer.” Hamilton and her team wrote all the code that sent Apollo 11 to the moon.

-In 1969, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space.

-Katherine Louise Bouman is a computer scientist who, earlier this year, captured the first image of a black hole. Up until this point, black holes were known to exist only through evidence, not by sight.