NASA Cancels First All-Female Spacewalk as It Doesn't Have Enough Medium-Sized Spacesuits Available
Hilary Clinton was one of many to voice their displeasure with NASA
The first all-female spacewalk in history has now been put on hold — and women back here on Earth are not happy.
Earlier this month, NASA announced to much acclaim that they would hold the historic spacewalk on March 29 with astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch. Kristen Facciol of the Canadian Space Agency would provide ground support at the Johnson Space Center in Houston as the two astronauts ventured outside of the International Space Station.
But mere days before the mission, NASA canceled the historic spacewalk for an anti-climactic reason: they didn’t have enough spacesuits to fit the astronauts.
During a spacewalk with astronaut Nick Hague on March 22, McClain determined that she fit better in a medium-sized space suit instead of the larger one she used while training. This effectively ended the “all-female” portion of the mission, as NASA can only construct one medium-sized suit in time for the walk — and that one will go to Koch.
“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 on Monday. “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. 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.”
News of the cancelation did not go over well online, and many social media users criticized the agency for the decision.
“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.”
“We put a man on the moon but we can’t find a spacesuit that fits a woman by Friday,” Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington tweeted.
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.”
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“Incredible: NASA has to cancel its first spacewalk by 2 women after realizing by 2 woman after realizing it only has 1 spacesuit in their size. Yet there have been plenty of spacewalks over the years by 2 men,” The New York Times editor Keith Bradsher tweeted.
Yet some users were supportive, citing the importance of safety.
“I’m super disappointed about the all-woman spacewalk not happening as scheduled this Friday,” wrote Emily Lakdawalla, “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.”
The mission will now go on with Koch and Hague at the helm, who will be replacing batteries on the station that were installed last year.
McClain will now perform her first spacewalk on April 8 with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and NASA has not announced a timetable to when an all-female walk may finally happen.