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Nasa astronauts complete the first all-female spacewalk

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Nasa reached a milestone on Friday when two Americans, tasked with replacing a power controller, ventured out of the International Space Station: the astronauts, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, became the first to take part in an all-female spacewalk.

[NEW YORK] Nasa reached a milestone on Friday when two Americans, tasked with replacing a power controller, ventured out of the International Space Station: the astronauts, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, became the first to take part in an all-female spacewalk.

The walk, which lasted seven hours and 17 minutes and included a brief call with President Donald Trump, was not purposefully planned by the agency. As Nasa explained it, one was bound to happen eventually because of the increasing number of female astronauts.

But news of the milestone attracted far greater interest than spacewalks normally do, and on Friday, American officials celebrated it as a historic achievement. They pointed to the agency's ambitious goals to put the first woman and the next man on the moon, and then to forge a path to Mars.

Live video of the spacewalk showed two figures in bulky white gear — first Ms Koch, then Ms Meir — working outside of the space station, which glowed against the blackness of space. The women could be heard talking to controllers, and helmet cameras showed the view as they clambered along the outside of the space station.

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Such a walk was supposed to take place in March, but it was postponed because Nasa did not have two appropriately sized spacesuits available. That sparked an outcry — and a "Saturday Night Live" spoof — about the legacy of sexism in the space programme. For some observers, the episode underscored the challenges faced by women in fields where equipment has historically been designed with men in mind.

Women were not admitted into the astronaut programme until 1978, and an American woman did not fly into space until Sally Ride did so in 1983. (Two Soviet women preceded her.) The first spacewalk took place in 1965, and in 1984, Kathryn D Sullivan became the first American woman to perform one.

"You're doing an incredible job," Mr Trump told the astronauts on Friday during a call to the space station. "This is a first step, because we're going to the moon, and then we're going to Mars."

NYTIMES