NASA's First All-Female Spacewalk Is (Finally) Set for Later This Month After Cancellation
The first all-female spacewalk ever is back on after it was abruptly postponed earlier this year by NASA.
International Space Station astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will be participating in the historic event on October 21, the agency announced in a tweet that listed their upcoming spacewalks. While there have been over 200 ISS spacewalks, only 15 women have ever participated in them, Space.com notes. Each time, they have been joined by a man.
This is the second attempt by NASA to conduct an all-female walk, which was first tried in March with Koch and astronaut Anne McClain. Kristen Facciol of the Canadian Space Agency was set to provide ground support at the Johnson Space Center in Houston as the astronauts ventured outside of the ISS.
But mere days before the mission, NASA canceled the moment for an anti-climactic reason: they simply didn’t have enough spacesuits to fit the astronauts.
“Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk,” NASA said in a statement at the time.
“However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station,” they explained. “McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best.”
They added: “Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it.”
The March announcement did not go over well with people on social media.
“NASA just canceled the first all-female spacewalk because it won’t have enough suits that fit women astronauts ready in time,” wrote one user. “I guess sexism really can transcend the Earthly plane.”
Human rights activist Kristyn Wong-Tam also expressed disappointment, writing, “In 1969 NASA could send a man to the moon but in 2019 they can’t get a second spacesuit made in time for the all-female spacewalk of two.”
Koch went on to perform the March spacewalk with astronaut Nick Hague.
According to CNN, Koch will be on the International Space Station until February 2020 after arriving in March. When she returns to Earth, she will have made the longest single spaceflight by a woman ever.