Astronauts make history with 1st-ever all-women spacewalk

PHOTO: Astronaut Christina Koch during her spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Oct. 18, 2019.PlayNASA TV/AFP via Getty Images
WATCH 1st all-women spacewalk makes history

Two female astronauts have accomplished something no women have done before.

U.S. astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir stepped outside the International Space Station Friday morning, the first time in history that two women have done a spacewalk together.

Koch and Meir were expected to spend more than five hours outside the space station to replace a failed power controller, but extended their spacewalk to "accomplish some get-ahead tasks on the space station," according to NASA.

PHOTO: Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exits the International Space Station, Oct. 18, 2019. NASA via AP
Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exits the International Space Station, Oct. 18, 2019.

The astronauts spoke with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during the spacewalk.

The conversation marked the first time since the 1969 moon landing that a sitting president spoke directly to astronauts who were physically outside of a spacecraft in space, according to the White House.

Trump called the two astronauts “very brave people” for their service on the space station.

“I don’t think I want to do it. I must tell you that. But you are amazing people,” the president said, later adding, “You’re very brave, brilliant women.”

Meir told the president she and Koch saw the spacewalk as "just us doing our job."

"It's something we've been training for six years," she said. "For us, it's just coming out here and doing our job today. We were the crew that was tasked with this assignment."

"At the same time, we recognize that it is a historic achievement and we do of course want to give credit for all those who came before us," Meir added. "There has been a long line of female scientists, explorers, engineers and astronauts and we have followed in their footsteps to get us where we are today."

Meir said she hopes she and Koch provide inspiration "to everybody, not only women."

"To everybody that has a dream, that has a big dream and that is willing to work hard to make that dream come true, something that all of us that have made our way up here have done all throughout our lives," she said. "And I can tell you, the hard work certainly did pay off."

The remaining four astronauts aboard the International Space Station, all men, will stay inside while Koch and Meir complete their work.

People took to social media Friday to celebrate "HERstory in the making," as NASA is calling the history-making event.

Koch and Meir both joined NASA in 2013, the year NASA's astronaut class was 50% female. Koch is also on her way to making history with a 300-day mission, which will be the longest single spaceflight by a woman.

The astronauts were asked in an interview from space earlier this month about whether they mind having their accomplishments qualified by their gender.

"In the end, I do think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing and in the past, women haven’t always been at the table," Koch said on NASA TV. "And it’s wonderful to be contributing to the human spaceflight program at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role, and that in turn can lead to an increased chance for success."

"There are a lot of people that derive motivation from inspiring stories from people that look like them and I think it’s an important aspect of the story to tell," she said.

PHOTO: Astronaut Christina Koch during her spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Oct. 18, 2019. NASA TV/AFP via Getty Images
Astronaut Christina Koch during her spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Oct. 18, 2019.

Meir added, "What we’re doing now shows all the work that went in decades prior. All the women that worked to get us where we are today. I think the nice thing for us is we don’t even really think about it on a daily basis. It’s just normal. We’re part of the team."

Koch and Meir's spacewalk comes seven months after NASA had to cancel its first attempt at making "HERstory," because the space station did not have enough medium-size spacesuits on board.

PHOTO:Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir posing for their official NASA portraits released on Oct. 18, 2019. NASA/Johnson Space Center/Josh Valcarcel/EPA via Shutterstock
PHOTO:Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir posing for their official NASA portraits released on Oct. 18, 2019.

Koch and another astronaut, Anne McClain, were supposed to make the first all-women spacewalk back in March.

When Koch and McClain, who is no longer on the ISS, discovered they both needed to wear a size medium in the "hard upper torso,” or the shirt of the spacesuit, the walk was canceled.

NASA faced swift backlash from people who viewed the spacewalk cancellation as yet another sign of women being held back on the job.

The decision by NASA, though, was primarily one borne out of logistics, as there are a limited number of spacesuits on the space station and NASA has lacked the funds to update its spacesuits in recent years.

Since the cancellation of the female spacewalk in March, NASA has been preparing its spacesuits for a series of 10 spacewalks.

The International Space Station is now equipped to make four complete spacewalking suits, with two "hard upper torso" components of the same size to be available at any time, according to NASA.