Science

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

NASA's first all-female spacewalk scrapped over spacesuit sizes”

Right. There aren't appropriate suits for a whopping two female astronauts.

That enthusiasm was curbed, however, when NASA said that nope, sorry, it was calling off that whole all-female spacewalk thing.

McClain, Koch and Hague are part of NASA's Astronaut Class of 2013, the only time there have been the same number of women accepted as men. "Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29th, Koch will wear it", NASA explained. Instead, Hague and Koch will do the spacewalk on Friday, while McClain will do a spacewalk on April 8th with astronaut David Saint-Jacques.

"Anne trained in medium and large and thought she could use a large, but decided after Friday's spacewalk a medium fits better", wrote spokeswoman person Stephanie Schierholz on Twitter.

Actually, that's not the case-the Space Station clarified there are indeed multiple medium-sized suits aboard, but "to stay on schedule.it's safer and faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits". And as Ars Technica reporter and NASA expert Eric Berger notes, having a well-fitting spacesuit is crucial to executing basic tasks in space, so "if McClain was uncomfortable in a large spacesuit, she (and NASA) made the correct call here". Well NASA had to cancel it due to "spacesuit availability".

The New York Times, quoting a NASA spokeswoman, reported that there are two medium-sized torsos now on the ISS but "one has yet to be properly configured for a spacewalk". That extra space inside the suit can be less noticeable when working in Earth's 1-gravity environment. The other suits, which are considered backups, can't be pulled out and used immediately, and they must be prepped for use in space. And, in a nutshell, it all has to do with astronauts growing in size while in orbit. 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.

McClain certainly isn't the first woman to face problems with spacesuit sizes. It's obviously a bummer for McClain, but nobody wants to be floating around in space in a suit that doesn't fit.



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