NASA cancels first all-female spacewalk for spacesuit's size problem

30 March, 2019, 22:58 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Suit issue ends first all-women spacewalk

Disappointment was expressed by many when it was announced by the space agency that the historic moment would no longer go ahead this coming Friday, over an availability issue of the correct sized spacesuit.

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.

Aboard the ISS the spacesuits are several parts assembled in order for each astronaut to have they suit adapted to their body, according to the explanations provided by a spokeswoman of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Brandi Dean, where American astronauts are based.

Anne McClain and Christina Koch had been due to step into history books in a spacewalk on Friday, during the final week of Women's History Month.

She also stressed that "the original pairing was not intentionally planned to bring about the first all-female spacewalk, it was just the way it worked out". "We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated".

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On the other hand, NASA has denied the accusation of sexism by saying it's easier to change spacewalkers than adjust a spacesuit.

Now that history-making event has been cancelled, and it's all due to the fit of the spacesuits. "Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first". McClain, having trained in both medium and large sizes, had assumed that she would be able to wear a large size torso, but after conducting a spacewalk last week, decided a medium would be better fit for her. That extra space inside the suit can be less noticeable when working in Earth's 1-gravity environment. "For example, temperature is controlled through a rotary dial on the front of the EMU, which means smaller astronauts face visual and mechanical disadvantages that limit their ability to properly control suit temperature".

In the almost 60 years of human spaceflight, there have only been four times when expeditions included two female members trained for space walks.

But Sullivan remembers that there were differences in how men were accommodated for sizes that fit outside the spectrum of sizes NASA created.

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