History-making all-female spacewalk canceled due to lack of spacesuits
This week, NASA announced that an historic spacewalk involving an all-female astronaut team had to be cancelled... because there weren't enough spacesuits for them. No, this isn't a metaphor for women being held back in the working world, it literally happened.
"With the first in a series of three spacewalks successfully completed at the International Space Station, NASA has updated astronaut assignments for the remaining two spacewalks and will preview the third in an upcoming news conference on NASA Television and the agency’s website," NASA announced yesterday.
One of the astronauts taking part in one of the upcoming spacewalks, Anne McClain, was due to go on a mission along with Christina Koch, but their plans were scuppered thanks to a wardrobe malfunction. Two more women, Mary Lawrence and Jackie Kagey, were also scheduled to take part in the spacewalk from the command centre in Houston.
"Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk," NASA explained.
"However, after consulting with McClain and [Nick] Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station. McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it."
Koch will now go on the spacewalk with male astronaut Nick Hague instead, claiming the one spacesuit suitable for the two female astronauts onboard. McClain, meanwhile, will have to wait to go on her next mission - and, again, she'll be accompanied by a male astronaut due to the lack of appropriate kit.
The mix-up was not entirely NASA's fault, as it was believed that Koch would wear a large-sized suit up until recent preparation for the mission, at which point she realised that it was better for her to wear a medium. The suit could be altered to be a better fit but, with the time that would take and the potential risks that could cause, the team decided it would be better to send another astronaut in McClain's place so that nobody would have to compromise their safety.
In the meantime, though, a lot of people have something to say about the matter.
The mission, which Koch and Hague will now go on, is to upgrade batteries on the exterior of the space station, and is expected to last seven hours.