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Disappointment following NASA’s cancellation of first-ever all-female spacewalk

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Last month, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) failed to make history by scrapping the first ever all-female spacewalk, which would have taken place on 29th March.

 

Image Credit: WikiImages on Pixabay

Last minute, the space agency made the decision to swap one of the two women, Anne McClain, with male colleague, Nick Hague, due to lack of a fitting spacesuit.

Space missions have only ever been all-male or male-female.

McClain previously thought that a large-sized spacesuit would be adequate for the walk, having trained in both medium and large suits, meaning that her colleague Christina Koch would wear the only medium-sized suit that would be ready in time.

However, after McClain’s spacewalk the week before, she discovered that the medium-sized upper part of the suit was a better fit.

NASA spokeswoman, Stephanie Schierholz, explained why a new top could not simply be provided: “in this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change space-walkers than reconfigure the spacesuit”.

Only one suit could be built in time, and the agency stated in a press release that this would go to Koch rather than McClain.

On Twitter, McClain defended the decision:


Nevertheless, the news has disappointed and confused many social media users who had long been anticipating the almost-historic moment.

One twitter user speculated:

 

@NASASocial I have all the respect in the world for NASA but I must ask after the recent press release of cancellation of the all female space walk, why isn’t there a suit for every astronaut?

April 8, 2019

A petition has even been created to push NASA to rearrange the first all-female spacewalk:

In an article by BU Today, several female scientists expressed their disappointment.

Astronomy PhD student, Aurora Kesseli, emphasized how the “pessimistic part of [her] is not surprised this happened” yet the anger around the news on social media has made her “optimistic that it will happen”.

A research scientist at the BU Center for Space Physics, Dolon Bhattacharyya, said that she “could not quite understand why the agency, known for its extreme planning, would make the announcement about the all-women spacewalk days beforehand and not check if there were proper suits available for the astronauts to execute it.”

NASA

Image Credit: qimono on Pixabay

Nevertheless, NASA lead mission analyst Jenny Gruber supported the decision: “I understand that there is limited space on [the International Space Station], and crew time is expensive, so the choice to switch crew members instead of taking extra time to outfit another medium torso is the right call to respect taxpayer dollars.

“They’re really placing the right people in the right job at the right time.”

NASA has not announced specific plans of another all-female spacewalk. However, on 8th April Anne McClain successfully completed a spacewalk with David Saint-Jacques – the final spacewalk in order to complete power upgrades at the station.

Hopefully, the next planned all-female spacewalk will not be cancelled.

Keep up-to-date with what’s going on at the International Space Station here.

Lead Image: skeeze on Pixabay




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