Two NASA astronauts made space history on Friday, completing the first spacecraft by a special women's team when they stepped out of the International Space Station.
Christina Koch and Jessica Meir reached the much-awaited milestone for NASA during a relatively routine mission to exchange defective batteries outside the station.
"Mission accomplished!" NASA Chief Jim Bridenstine tweeted on Friday. "Today's historic achievement paves the way for our #Artemis program, which will send the first woman to the Moon in 2024."
"Ad Astra!" He added, in Latin for "to the stars".
NASA aims to return to the moon on a crew mission in 2024 under a program dubbed Artemis, which in Greek mythology is the twin sister of Apollo, the name of the original moon program.
Koch and Meir, who wore white space clothing and were tethered to a station about 408 km above Earth, stepped into space at 7:38 am Eastern time to replace a damaged power unit designed to help condition the energy stored from the panel solar station, NASA announced online because it showed a live video of the action.
The first attempt at an all-female space vehicle in March was canceled because one of the astronauts of medium size from astronauts was not configured and ready to travel.
US President Donald Trump spoke with Koch and Meir by telephone from the White House during his last space trip. "Station, this is President Donald Trump. Do you hear me? "
The president, flanked by his daughter Ivanka Trump and vice president Mike Pence, said the astronauts were "brave and intelligent women" and mistakenly praised the two as the first women to step out of the space station, prompting a gentle correction from Meir.
"We do not want to take too much praise, because there are many other female pedestrians in front of us. This is the first time that there are two women outside at the same time, "Meir, the 15th woman to travel in space, responded.
Astronauts at the space station, which began operations in 2000, have counted 221 spacecraft, 43 of which are female astronauts, according to NASA.
Friday's spacecraft, which is officially called extravehicular activity, is in line with the purpose of the US space agency to increase inclusivity in space.
Koch is scheduled to complete the longest space flight by a woman by staying in orbit at the station until February 2020. He said gender milestones such as spacewalk are very important.
"There are many people who get motivated from inspirational stories from people who are similar to them, and I think that is an important aspect of this story to tell," he said at a brief NASA conference in Houston this month.
Sandra Magnus, a former NASA astronaut who spent 136 days at the International Space Station, told Reuters that he did not want events like Friday's spacecraft to be a hoax.
"We want that to happen because people have the expertise and they are there to do the work," Magnus said.
"On the other hand, it is important for young women to see role models women do extraordinary things," he said. "So there are two sides of a coin. You want it to be normal but you want it to be special."