NASA’s highly anticipated all-female spacewalk isn’t happening anymore, and it’s all because of spacesuit sizes.
Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were going to end Women’s History Month with a bang when they did a spacewalk on Friday (29 March) outside the International Space Station.
Instead, Nike Hague is taking the spot of McClain.
The reason this happened is because both McClain, who was previously married to Summer Worden, and Koch both needed a medium-size hard upper torso. This is the shirt portion of the spacesuit.
‘It is more efficient to swap spacewalkers than to reconfigure the elements of the spacesuit,’ NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz told The Washington Post.
She clarified that there are two mediums on board, but only one is in ‘readily usable configuration’.
McClain trained in both medium and large sizes. When she completed her first spacewalk with Hague last Friday (22 March), she concluded the medium fit better.
‘No one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in microgravity, and an individual may find that their sizing preferences change in space,’ Schierholz explained.
NASA also tweeted about this, in response to criticism of the reasoning.
We’ve seen your tweets about spacesuit availability for Friday’s spacewalk. To clarify, we have more than 1 medium size spacesuit torso aboard, but to stay on schedule with @Space_Station upgrades, it’s safer & faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits. pic.twitter.com/tPisBHaF2p
— NASA (@NASA) March 26, 2019
‘Spacesuits are not “one size fits all,”‘ Schierholz added.
‘Astronauts typically describe spacewalks as the most physically challenging thing they do,’ she continued. ‘Working in a pressurized spacesuit requires physical strength and endurance, and it is essential that the spacesuit fits as well as possible.’
Who is Anne McClain?
NASA chose McClain to join their 21st astronaut class in June 2013. Women made up 50% of the class.
‘I wanted to be an astronaut from the time I was 3 or 4 years old,’ she said in a NASA interview. ‘I remember telling my mom at that time, and I never deviated from what I wanted to be. Something about exploration has fascinated me from a young age.’
What does it take to get ready for a #spacewalk? A LOT!
— Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) March 21, 2019
McClain became the 13th female spacewalker with her walk last week. Koch will become the 14th this Friday.
Schierholz added that for NASA, ‘an all-female spacewalk is inevitable’.