NASA Scraps All-Women Spacewalk for Lack of Well-Fitting Suits

Enlarge ImageNASA astronauts Christina Koch Anne Mc Clain and Nick Hague make up half the current ISS crew.                  NASA

Had the previous schedule held, a Koch-McClain spacewalk would have been the first in the history of spaceflight featuring only women.

This means Koch will have to do the spacewalk with a male astronaut instead.

There is expected to be plenty of time to configure a suit with a medium-size hard upper torso for the April 8 spacewalk, which is about two weeks away. McClain, having trained in both medium and large sizes, had assumed that she would be able to wear a large size torso, but after conducting a spacewalk last week, decided a medium would be better fit for her. Even with the changes to her body, though, she was uncomfortable performing the work in the larger suit. "Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it", the statement continued.

In an interview with the New York Times, NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz explained a similar rationale.

The spacesuits aboard the space station are in fact assemblies of several parts put together as best adapted to each astronaut's body, according to Brandi Dean, a spokeswoman at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. "We're sort of getting to the point of inevitability", she told the Times.

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Today, there are no official plans for an all-women spacewalk via NASA.

Based on the schedule of activities on the station, however, delaying this spacewalk would at least push back the third Expedition 59 spacewalk, now set to take place on April 8, and it could have had an impact on the timing of upcoming arrivals at the station, as well. Soon after NASA astronaut Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan took the title as the first American women to undertake an extra-vehicular task during Space Shuttle Challenger mission. In this case, a last-second change has derailed things a bit, but with NASA sending more female astronauts to the ISS than ever before, it likely won't be long until they get another shot at making history.

"To date, almost 60 American women have flown in space", according to The Atlantic.

The original announcement about the spacewalk was met with huge praise earlier this month, with aerospace engineer Kristen Facciol tweeting her excitement about being selected for console during the event. What's most interesting.is not the gender parity. Spacewalks, in particular, are physically demanding and often one of the most risky tasks an astronaut can perform.

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