Sad news for those who were looking forward to the first all-female spacewalk this week — the event has been scrapped due to a lack of correctly sized spacesuits.
The plan was for NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch to take a spacewalk together outside the International Space Station to install new batteries on Friday, March 29. This would have been the second part of a mission that began last week when the first set of new batteries were successfully installed. It would have also made history as the first time that a spacewalk was completed by all-female personnel.
The astronauts were required to scrap the plan and rearrange the walk, however, due to the availability of spacesuit parts. The upper part of the spacesuits, called the hard upper torso (HUT), is available in sizes medium, large, and extra large. McClain had used both medium and large sizes in training, but when she was on her spacewalk last week she found that she preferred the medium size.
This caused an issue as Koch also wears a size medium. While there are two medium-size HUTs available, it was not possible to make both of them ready in time for the spacewalk on Friday.
Instead of the walk being completed by the two women, Koch will take part in the spacewalk as planned and she will be joined by her male colleague, Nick Hague.
McClain will get the chance to perform another spacewalk though on April 8 when she is scheduled to perform a spacewalk with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques. During this mission, the pair will lay out jumper cables between the ISS’s Unity module, the oldest of the three modules, and the S0 truss which forms the central backbone of the station.
This later walk aims to connect a backup power path for the robotic exterior arm which performs assembly and maintenance by moving equipment around the station. The Canadian-built arm is called Canadarm2.
The spacewalks on March 29 and April 8 will be the 215th and 216th respectively in the history in the ISS. In this time, 13 women have participated in spacewalks and when Koch goes out for her spacewalk she will become the 14th woman to do so.
Those who are still hoping to see an all-female spacewalk shouldn’t give up hope, however. NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said that it is bound to happen soon. “We believe an all-female spacewalk is inevitable,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
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