President Donald Trump was fact-checked from space today when he contacted the International Space Station to commend Jessica Meir and Christina Koch for completing the all-female spacewalk outside of the craft, but mistakenly congratulated the two for being the’ first ever female spacewalkers’.
There was a delay before anyone from the space station could speak, but Meir chimed in and made it clear that she and Koch are not the first female spacewalkers – the first woman spacewalk took place in 1984 and 14 more have since followed.
President Trump addressed Koch and Meir while sitting at a table between his daughter Ivanka Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, surrounded by NASA officials and a group of Girl Scouts at the White House.
‘This is the first time for a woman outside of the space station,’ Trump said staring into the camera.
He later added: ‘You are amazing people; they’re conducting the first ever female spacewalk to replace an exterior part of the space station.
‘They’re doing some work, and they’re doing it in a very high altitude — an altitude that very few people will ever see.’
There was a delay before anyone from the space station could speak, but Meir chimed in and made it clear that her and Koch are not the first female spacewalkers.
US President Donald Trump (center) put in a congratulatory call to astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, but mistakenly noted that this was the first time a female has ever ventured outside of the craft
‘We don’t want to take too much credit because there have been many other female spacewalkers before,’ she said.
‘This is the first time that there’s been two women outside at the same time.’
The first woman to complete a spacewalk was Russian astronaut Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya in 1984 – a total of 15 women have ever spacewalked, including Meir and Koch.
Regardless of the blunder, Koch and Meir will still go in history books for the first all-female spacewalk.
The duo left the International Space Station at 07:38am ET (12:38pm BST) today to begin the first all-female spacewalk ever.
Their job was to fix a broken part of the station’s solar power network.
The pair moved to the space station’s P6 truss at the far end to begin work, where they replaced a failed power controller.
The spacewalk is being streamed live by NASA and is a landmark moment for female astronauts and scientists.
An all-woman spacewalk had been planned for March but one of the astronauts was replaced by a man because her space suit didn’t fit.
The first American female spacewalker, who carried out her own mission 35 years ago, Kathy Sullivan, said she was delighted by today’s milestone.
And a NASA spokesperson said: ‘Our achievements provide inspiration to students around the world, proving that hard work can lead you to great heights, and all students should be able to see themselves in those achievements.’
Koch and Meir replaced battery units called BCDUs after they failed to provide increased power to the ISS.
This failure has not significantly impacted the crew or its mission but needs to be repaired nonetheless.
Meir (right) chimed in to clarify that there has been ‘many other female spacewalkers before’ – the first woman to spacewalk took place in 1984 and 14 more have since followed. Her and Koch (left) participated in the first ever all-female spacewalk
According to NASA, BCDUs regulate the charge for batteries that draw energy from the station’s solar collectors to provide power as the station orbits at night.
Koch, who is also set to complete the longest single spaceflight by a woman as she remains in orbit until February 2020, said gender milestones like the spacewalk were especially significant.
‘There are a lot of people who derive motivation from inspiring stories from people who look like them, and I think that it´s an important aspect of the story to tell,’ she told a NASA briefing in Houston this month.
Koch can be seen during today’s space walk with a red band around her space suit leg
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exiting the International Space Station
‘What we´re doing now shows all the work in the decades prior from all the women that worked to get us where we are today,’ Meir added.
Koch, who was slated for the earlier spacewalk, will be making her fourth walk and will become the 14th woman ever to walk in space. Today will mark Meir’s first spacewalk. The ISS has seen more than 200 spacewalks since 1998.
Jessica Meir’s helmet cam as she moved along the ISS to the work station
NASA, astronauts Christina Koch, right, and, Jessica Meir pose for a photo on the International Space Station
NASA makes history as two women astronauts embark on the first ever all-female spacewalk from the ISS
The pair exited the International Space Station at 07:38am ET (12:38pm BST)
The planned all-woman spacewalk in March was called off because astronaut Ann McClain needed a medium spacesuit but only a large was available.
Due to safety issues with the fit she did not participate and man took her place, making today the revised date for the landmark mission.
‘We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated,’ she said on Twitter after the event. ‘Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first.’
Watchers took to Twitter to share their delight at the first all-female space walk in history taking place
At the time the cancellation drew widespread criticism, including from former U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton and global activism group March for Science.
Woman completing spacewalks date back to July, 1984 when Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first to do so.
Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov – who died just last week – conducted history’s first spacewalk in 1965, four years before the US put men on the moon for the first time.
Others jokingly asked whether the women would be paid the same for the walk
Christina H. Koch, left, and Meir greeted each other after Meir’s arrival on the International Space Station last month
While today’s event was a long time coming, NASA said it was not planned.
‘It is something that was bound to happen eventually, and the increase in female astronauts in space for the past year is providing another window of opportunity,’ a spokeswoman said.
‘Fifty percent of the 2013 astronaut candidate class are women,’ she noted, ‘and of the 11 members of 2017 astronaut candidate class still in training, five are women.’
NASA astronauts Christina Koch (L) and Jessica Meir (R) in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, September 2019
This photo provided by NASA shows astronauts Andrew Morgan with Christina Koch and Jessica Meir at the International Space Station on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019