Lack of fitting spacesuits leads to scrapping of all women spacewalk

A planned first all-female spacewalk has been cancelled because of spacesuit issues, USA space agency Nasa says.

The work of the first and second spacewalks is to install lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station's solar arrays, which basically means their solar panels (sidebar: the fact that the International Space Station also uses solar panels is neat as hell).

Stephanie Schierholz, a spokeswoman for NASA, said in an interview on Monday that there were already two medium-size hard upper torsos - "essentially the shirt of the spacesuit", according to NASA - at the space station. While there are two medium-size suits aboard the space station, only one has been prepped for a spacewalk, and it would take extensive crew time to prep the other suit. Koch will become the 14th on March 29. Last Friday, McClain took a spacewalk and discovered that the spacesuit available to her didn't fit as well as she thought it would.

The first all-female spacewalk - featuring a graduate from N.C. State University - has been canceled by NASA for an odd reason.

The six astronauts onboard the International Space Station - three of whom are from the USA - are performing Expedition 59, which ends in June. Spacewalks, in particular, are physically demanding and often one of the most unsafe tasks an astronaut can perform.

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. Only one suit with a medium-sized torso is ready for use on the station, and station managers made a decision to have Koch use that suit. Depending on how long they stay with the organization, they may even be among the first crew to go to Mars, a nine-month-long voyage 25 million miles away. McClain, who did her first spacewalk last week, will sit this round out. Astronauts go through several fittings when preparing for spacewalks to allow for this.

McClain is scheduled to make her next spacewalk on April 8. "It is more efficient to swap spacewalkers than to reconfigure the elements of the spacesuit". But women at NASA, like women working in most professions, typically encounter more obstacles than their male counterparts.

In the entire history of space exploration, less than 11% of the more than 500 people who have been to space have been female.

  • Joe Gonzales