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NASA brings forward all-female spacewalk, introduces new space suit

An all-female spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) will take place this week rather than next, NASA said on Tuesday.

Washington, 16 October 2019 (dpa/MIA) – An all-female spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) will take place this week rather than next, NASA said on Tuesday.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will venture outside the orbiting laboratory to replace a power controller that failed during the weekend, the US space agency said.

The spacewalk, the first by two women, is planned for Thursday or Friday.

Managers of the ISS decided to bring forward the all-female spacewalk so the women can replace the faulty power unit. The decision means other spacewalks slated to take place this week and next to replace batteries have been postponed.

The failed unit has no impact on the crew’s safety or ongoing experiments, but does prevent a new lithium-ion battery installed earlier this month from providing additional power, NASA said in a blog post.

Though the lithium-ion batteries are not yet fully functional, the station’s overall power supply, fed by four sets of batteries and solar arrays, remains sufficient for all operations, NASA said in the blog post.

NASA plans a briefing later Tuesday to unveil two new spacesuit designs for its planned missions to the Moon. The suits worn by astronauts conducting spacewalks are 40 years old and have become increasingly difficult to fix, NASA said.

NASA originally scheduled the first all-female spacewalk for late March but had to cancel it because of a lack of spacesuits in the right size.

The new suits will give astronauts more mobility and new technology on them will allow for longer space walks, NASA officials said at a press briefing. The agency is also building space suits that fit every size, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

The space suits are designed to mitigate as much risk of space flight as possible, Bridenstine said. NASA intends to use them in its Artemis programme, which aims to return to the Moon by 2024.

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