NASA Cancels All-Female Spacewalk Due To Lack Of Spacesuits In The Right Size

Lynne Versluys 26 Mar 2019

Safety issues have caused NASA to reschedule the all-female spacewalk​.

What Should Have Been Historic

Flickr | NASA Johnson

Earlier this month, NASA announced that it would be conducting its first all-female spacewalk, with astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch being guided from at NASA's Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston by light directors Mary Lawrence and Kristen Facciol.

It was expected to be a historic moment and during Women's History Month no less!

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A Fault In The Plan

Flickr | NASA Johnson

Unfortunately, the plan hit a snag. NASA announced on Monday that they had to cancel the initial plans because there was insufficient equipment for both of the women.

The space suit for Anne McClain was not the correct size, so she will be replaced by Nick Hague for the March 29 spacewalk.

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A Quick Reconfiguring

NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz explained the switch:

"Anne trained in ‘M’ and ‘L’ and thought she could use a large but decided after [last] Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better. In this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change space-walkers than reconfigure the spacesuit."

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Safety First

While the news was met with annoyance and frustration on social media, assuring that astronauts have the very best equipment possible is no small thing. Perhaps NASA should start planning more options for women's suits, but McClain will still be doing a spacewalk tentatively scheduled for Monday, April 8, with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques.

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Gender Statistics

Flickr | NASA Johnson

Over 500 people have been to space at this point, but only 11% have been women. The first woman to spacewalk was Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya 35 years ago.

However, the number of women who are working for NASA and heading to space is steadily increasing. Koch and McClain graduated from the NASA program in 2013 and half of their class was female.

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All Female Space Walk Will Happen... Eventually

While it is disheartening that such a historic event had to be postponed, fear not. It will happen eventually. Emily Lakdawalla, a senior editor at the Planetary Society, said it best:

"I'm suuper disappointed about the all-woman spacewalk not happening as scheduled this Friday but I'm also super supportive of astronauts having the authority to say "I would be safer using a different piece of equipment." An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen."

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