NASA cancels first all-female spacewalk, cites suit size problem | News | DW | 26.03.2019
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NASA cancels first all-female spacewalk, cites suit size problem

A first women-only spacewalk has been cancelled by the US NASA space agency when the right size space suits could not be found. Instead the spacewalk will be conducted by a man and a woman.

NASA, the US space agency, has cancelled the first all-female spacewalk due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size.

Anne McClain and Christina Koch had been scheduled to step into the history books in a spacewalk this coming Friday, during the final week of Women's History Month. 

McClain, however, will now give up her place on the mission to her male colleague Nick Hague, NASA announced late Monday.

Christina Hammock Koch and Nick Hague (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Kudryavtsev)

An all-female spacewalk had to be cancelled

"Mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station," NASA said in a statement.

"McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it."

NASA said the decision to change the plan was made in consultation with McClain after a spacewalk last week.

"Anne trained in M and L and thought she could use a large but decided after Friday's spacewalk a medium fits better," wrote spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz​ on Twitter.

"In this case, it's easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit," Schierholz explained.

Read more: How spacesuits work


It has been nearly 60 years since the first human blasted off into space. Since then, fewer than 11 percent of the 500 people who have traveled to space have been women, and spacewalk teams have either been all-male or male-female.

Internationalen Raumstation ISS (picture-alliance/dpa/NASA)

The International Space station orbits the earth

McClain and Koch were both part of the 2013 NASA class which was made up of a 50-50 gender divide.

The NASA announcement was met with disappointment and anger by many following the much-anticipated mission on social media, with some arguing an all-female spacewalk was overdue.

Others said they were sad that a milestone moment on women's space exploration had been deferred, but understood that safety came first.

"I'm super disappointed about the all-woman spacewalk not happening as scheduled this Friday but I'm also super supportive of astronauts having the authority to say 'I would be safer using a different piece of equipment''," wrote Emily Lakdawalla, a senior editor at the US non-profit The Planetary Society.

av/jm (dpa, Reuters)

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