Monday, 22 July, 2019

NASA astronaut Anne McClain speaks out about all-female spacewalk change

Anushka Sharma is the Co Founder of the London Space Network Anushka Sharma is the Co Founder of the London Space Network Credit Rebecca Naen
Sandy Nunez | 28 March, 2019, 06:24

What should have been a giant leap for womankind has turned into a stumble on the path to equality after USA space agency Nasa cancelled the first all-female spacewalk because of a lack of a spacesuit in the right size.

McClain was scheduled to conduct the spacewalk with fellow astronaut Christina Koch to install lithium-ion batteries on the station.

"Mission managers chose to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station", NASA said in a statement. Two hard upper torso parts in each of the three available spacesuit sizes are now held at the ISS: medium, large and extra large. (There are two medium-size suits available, but one is not now suitable for work outside the spacecraft.) Ill-fitting suits can affect visibility and mobility while conducting tasks outside the space station, as well as create difficulty changing the settings within the suit itself.

On this action of NASA, some people including USA presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were not happy. We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated. "Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first".

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Because McClain was able to train in both medium and large suits back on Earth, NASA figured that she would probably be fine wearing the large suit on her second spacewalk. But after last week's spacewalk, she decided that a large would be too big. It's obviously a bummer for McClain, but nobody wants to be floating around in space in a suit that doesn't fit.

Even though the cancellation is due to the suits' availability-not their existence-it still begs the question of why there aren't more medium-sized torsos already aboard and ready to go, especially after NASA graduated its most recent class of flight directors, a full 50 percent of whom were women.

In her tweet, Hillary urged to "Make another suit". Unfortunately, the extra height didn't help with the fit of the large HUT. When the suits were originally designed for the shuttle program some 40 years ago, NASA had planned to offer a broader range of sizes to accommodate as many astronauts as possible. The other suits, which are considered backups, can't be pulled out and used immediately, and they must be prepped for use in space.