Monday, 22 July, 2019

Nasa's first all-female spacewalk scrapped over spacesuit sizes

NASA Updates Spacewalk Assignments, Announces Final Preview Briefing Nasa's first all-female spacewalk scrapped over spacesuit sizes
Sandy Nunez | 26 March, 2019, 12:38

In a press release on Monday, the agency said it had to adjust assignments "in part" due to "spacesuit availability" problems.

She said two upper parts in each of the three available spacesuit sizes are now held at the ISS: medium, large and extra large.

Anne McClain and Christina Koch, two NASA astronauts with Expedition 59, had been scheduled to operate the spacewalk, but mission managers made a decision to switch so that Koch and NASA astronaut Nick Hague could operate the assignment.

Earlier this month, when the first all-women spacewalk was announced, NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz noted that the history-making walk was coincidental and "not orchestrated to be this way". It was during that mission, NASA said, that McClain discovered "a medium-size hard upper torso - essentially the shirt of the spacesuit - fits her best".

The first all-female spacewalk, originally scheduled for this Friday, March 29, has been dumped because they couldn't get two lady-size spacesuits ready in time, according to a statement from NASA.

When McClain took part in a spacewalk last week, she became the 13th woman to do so, Nasa says; Koch will be the 14th.

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As for the third spacewalk in the series, McClain is tentatively scheduled to be joined by Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques on April 8.

Ms McClain realised that the medium-size spacesuit suited her best when she worked outside the station on 22 March.

Both astronauts were members of NASA's 2013 astronaut class, half of which was comprised of women.

Heather Barr, the acting co-director of the Women's Rights Division, said: "Because it's not enough to discriminate against women everywhere on Earth".

Until now, male-only or mixed male-female teams had conducted spacewalk since the space station was assembled in 1998 - 214 spacewalks until now. Alexey Ovchinin and Hague. However, astronaut Nick Hague will accompany Koch instead of her female colleague.