Spacesuits Don't Come in Size 'Small'

Cristina Cross
March 29, 2019

What should have been a giant leap for womankind has turned into a stumble on the path to equality after U.S. space agency NASA cancelled the first all-female spacewalk because a lack of a spacesuit in the right size. The goal of the set of spacewalks is to install a powerful lithium-ion battery for one of the pair of solar arrays on the space station. She said two upper parts in each of the three available spacesuit sizes are now held at the space station: medium, large and extra large.

Astronaut Christina Koch - a MI native - is still set for the scheduled Friday, March 29 spacewalk outside of the International Space Station.

Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch, the original pairing for the all-women spacewalk on 29 March. "It is, in part, due to the preferred spacesuit sizing of the various astronauts, and the availability of spacesuit sizes on the space station".

In response, NASA declared that it was faster and safer to swap astronauts, rather than reconfigure a suit to properly fit Koch, seeing as there wasn't another size medium readily available.

So far only male or mixed male-female teams have conducted spacewalks.

It's been 35 years since cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space when she stepped outside the Salyut 7 space station. Spacewalks are performed to conduct station maintenance, such as installing new components, monitoring onsite scientific experiments, or updating equipment.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: And you can imagine that some women were kind of annoyed about this because spacewalking is one of the most prestigious things you can do as an astronaut.

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McClain and Koch were part of NASA's historic astronaut class of 2013, which was 50 per cent women - four women among the eight participants selected to join the astronaut training program. I said, are there any astronauts that would be unable to spacewalk because they don't have a suit?

McClain will stand down, Koch will use the medium-sized suit she was fitted with back on March 21, and Hague will take McClain's spot, using the same suit he wore on March 22.

NASA's first all-female spacewalk is on indefinite hold.

When the schedule for these spacewalks was first announced and it looked like it would result in the first all-female spacewalk, NASA was quick to point out that, while it would be a great day for the space agency, the pairing of astronauts isn't made according to gender.

Another factor, he said, was giving spacewalk experience to as many astronauts as possible. McClain will wear it during the third spacewalk, scheduled for April 8.

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

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