NASA nixes 1st all-female spacewalk due to suit-sizing issue

Christopher Davidson
March 29, 2019

"So, apparently we pick our female astronauts the same way we pick our Rockettes", Colbert joked.

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

NASA is responding to criticism after announcing the first-ever all-female spacewalk will not happen this week because only one appropriately sized spacesuit is ready. Training in various space suits on Earth can't adequately predict what suit will fit you better in space, and in this case the time crunch between the two spacewalks has forced NASA to replace McClain with Hague. Koch will go out with a male crewmate, Nick Hague.

There have been 213 space walks outside the ISS since 1998 for the purposes of maintenance, repairs, testing of new equipment or science experiments, according to NASA.

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According to the NASA website, "donning" a spacesuit isn't as easy as it seems. So while it's probably unfair to chalk up the cancellation of the all-female spacewalk to garden-variety sexism, it is probably fair to ask why one of the world's largest and most sophisticated space programs can shoot a bunch of people in space, but can't quite figure out how to efficiently dress them.

Of the six HUTs now aboard the station, two of them are size medium, two are large and two are extra large.

The first All-female spacewalk has to wait a little more. If a suit is too big, an astronaut in space might feel like they're floating around inside of it, making them struggle with mobility. "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".

Further complicating the matter, astronauts often grow taller while in space. So, in support of McClain, Orangetheory has offered to fund the creation of a new spacesuit tailored to fit women. Evidently, NASA only carries sizes for men.

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