Here’s Why It’s So Important To Talk About The First Ever Female-Only Spacewalk

Instead of buying a T-shirt or taking a selfie this International Women's Day, let's discuss Anne McClain and Christina Koch, and how they're making history

Anne McClain and Christina Koch

by Sofia Tindall |

I'm babysitting my 6-year-old cousin, and we're drawing pictures of the man on the moon with lurid Crayola sticks. I lean over to inspect the small, stick-figure scrawl she's grafted onto a violet-cratered moon 'what are we going to call him?' I ask, expecting the kind of harebrained made-up moniker you would predict might emerge from a six-year-old's mouth. Without missing a beat, and with complete conviction she replies 'Neil Armstrong'.

At the time it was just funny, but the news announced today that NASA are preparing for the first ever all-female spacewalk (something that's going to happen in less than a month, on March the 29th), is it time that we start shifting the focus back towards the fact that women are so rarely a part of our history?

Yes, we all know Neil Armstrong was the first man to land on the moon but it was almost 15 years later until the first woman, Svetlana Savitskaya, a woman who's name is incontestably lesser known to follow in his footsteps in 1984. Where's her place in history?

Women's History Month (running throughout March) is about celebrating the history of women - because most historically recognised moments, the ones that stand out in textbooks, documentaries and on Wikipedia (with maybe the exception of Marie Curie and Frida Khalo) have been completed by men. This isn't because women are less capable, brave or ambitious or smart - but because for a vast proportion of history women have been told that they can't. That we can't attend University, that we don't deserve equal pay, or to vote, that we don't have equal rights in a marriage. Our place in history has been obstructed.

So - sorry Armstrong, but it's probably time you started sharing the accolades around a bit - who are the women who are now playing a part in changing this history by being the first all-female space team to head up in March?

One will be Anne McClain. She's already got a couple of major achievements under her belt which include competing in the Women's Premiership for Rugby in 2002 and she competed in the 2006 Women's Rugby World Cup - something she's actually credited in an interview for helping her train to be an Astronaut. As well as being a NASA Astronaut (she was selected in 2013) she's a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, where she was a Helicopter Pilot. McClain has said that she wanted to be an Astronaut since she was 3 years old, even writing a book about space in kindergarten.

In an interview McClain also explained that for one birthday she inexplicably asked all of her friends for calculators 'and then I received a bunch of calculators.' she laughed 'I was a huge nerd then and I'm still a huge nerd now. But hey - nerds get to go to space' her words of advice to those who want to follow in her footsteps? 'you never know where you're going to get inspiration from and if you're inspired just keep doing it. Even if your brother says you can't.'

And what about Christina Koch, who will be joining her? Koch's credentials are equally impressive: she graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics with not one but two Bachelor degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics, as well as a Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering. She's also been a member of Firefighting and Search and Rescue teams in Antartica. Both women will complete the spacewalk on March the 29th.

So if you're thinking of celebrating International Women's Day this week, or Women's History Month in March, then don't forget to tell your kids, or niece, or whichever young women you know who are forming their ideas about the world right now about the first female-only spacewalk, which is making history this month.

If for no other reason: because it would be nice one day when a 6-year-old is drawing pictures of a person on the moon to not just think of them as Neil Armstrong, but to also think of them as Sally Kristen Ride (the first female Astronaut) or Svetlana Savitskaya, or Anne McClain or Christina Koch.

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