NASA canceled all-women spacewalk, as they don't have apt spacesuits
A couple of weeks ago, we all were excited to learn that an all-women team will walk in space to carry out routine maintenance of the International Space Station. The mission would have marked a remarkable first in the history of space expedition, but NASA has scrapped the all-women team. The reason being: it didn't have appropriately sized spacesuits for both women. Here's more.
On March 29, NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were scheduled to step into the darkness of cosmos - some 400km above Earth - to upgrade lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station's solar arrays. The announcement of the mission drew widespread media attention because only a few women have carried out spacewalks before; those who did always had male partners.
The March 29 mission was even more special because not just the spacewalkers but the flight controllers were also females. Though NASA said it was just a coincidence, this was something that drew more interest from space enthusiasts across the globe.
As we all waited eagerly, the American space agency decided to spoil the excitement. In a recent announcement, NASA said astronaut Nick Hague will take McClain's place in the upcoming spacewalk as there are not appropriately sized spacesuits available for these women. Essentially, both Koch and McClain needed a medium-sized suit for the mission, but only one can be prepared by Friday.
For those unaware, spacesuits don't come as a uniform, they're assembled part by part. Each part (torso, arms, gloves etc.) comes in varying sizes, which astronauts pick to make their own suit. In this case, McClain had planned to use a large-size hard upper torso - shirt of the spacesuit - but then, after a recent spacewalk, she realized medium fits her best.
Following NASA's decision to replace McClain with Hague, people starting rallying against the agency, calling its move utterly shameful. However, a spokesperson recently took to Twitter to note that the agency did have a medium-sized torso, but it preferred swapping astronaut for already existing suits, instead of reconfiguring the suits - which would have taken a lot of time and effort.
We have another medium size spacesuit segment on the station; Anne trained in M and L and thought she could use a large but decided after Friday's spacewalk a medium fits better. In this case, it's easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit.— Stephanie (@schierholz) March 25, 2019
Now, there's no saying when the all-women spacewalk will take place, at least in the near future. After Koch and Hague's March 29 spacewalk, McClain will carry out another spacewalk with Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques on April 8. The schedule could change in the coming weeks, but for now, that's what NASA has got planned.
Over the years, more than 500 people have been to space, but only 11% of them have been women. Even for spacewalks, only 13 women have got the chance to venture out in space in the entire history of mankind - which is utterly disappointing.