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Here's The Real Reason Why NASA Had to 'Cancel' That All-Female Spacewalk



Earlier this month, the world was excited to hear that NASA had scheduled the first-ever "all-female spacewalk". Now, an annoying equipment problem has disappointed many #WomeninSTEM enthusiasts.

Expedition 59/60 flight engineers Christina Koch and Anne McClain were going to venture outside the International Space Station (ISS) on March 29 to continue upgrading their batteries on one of the solar arrays

Despite wide media coverage, scheduling of these crew members – including the fact that women would be at key flight controls down on Earth as well – was a happy coincidence, not a pre-meditated event

"It was not orchestrated to be this way," NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said when the news was first broke

But given the fact that female astronauts have been undrepresented in ISS

That said, NASA has explicitly warned us that things may still be changing regarding this excursion

"Spacewalk assignments may be adjusted if the flight operations ons team deems it necessary, "Schierholz wrote in the original press release about the latest spacewalk schedule

Now they have, with one of the astronauts swapped out for a male colleague due to a stitch sizing issue. On March 26, NASA announced that McClain would be replaced by flight engineer Nick Hague ̵

1; together, they started the work on the battery upgrade in a previous spacewalk on March 22.

The 'cancelation' of the all-female spacewalk has come to the fact that during that March 22 McAllin discovered her best body torso fitting a medium, not as large as the team previously thought

NASA's extravehicular activity (EVA) suits are actually considered to be "personal spacecraft" designed to keep a human alive in the harsh environment of space. They do not have male and female versions, but they consist of a mix-and-match collection of parts – torso, arms, gloves, etc. – that come in several sizes, to ensure proper fit for every astronaut

For the March 29 spacewalk, only one medium-sized torso piece was ready to go, and so will be donned by Koch, according to NASA's announcement about these updated assignments. lot like this: "Omg, how does NASA not have enough suits sized for female astronauts !? How did they not see this coming !? How embarrassing!"

Not so fast, though

While it's a shame that this historical event now can not happen due to what is essentially an equipment shortage, the current state of affairs is more complicated than just alleging that NASA does not adequately cater for female astronauts due to, say, implicit sexism

In fact, the ISS even has another medium-sized torso onboard. But while wearing the airlock is nothing like the breezy process we've seen in science fiction movies.

According to a tweet by Schierholz McLain was actually trained in both size of the suit and the fit issue was only discovered late in the spacewalk schedule . Besides, the job involves a lot more crew than just two people popping out of the ISS, so NASA went with the fastest and easiest solution – replace the astronaut, not the suit

On top of that, it's not like NASA does not have enough suits just for female astronauts.

In 2017, the agency released an audit of the suits currently used on the ISS, outlining concerns about the age of the equipment, which may not even last until the station's planned retirement in 2024. [19659003]

"Of the 11 remaining complete and functional spaceships, 4 are kept on the ISS and the remaining 7 are on Earth in various stages of refurbishment and maintenance," the audit said. Yukes

New suits are in the works, but these things involve extraordinary costs and time to produce, with funding cuts in the development of replacements, the Z-Series Pressure Garment System. March 29 spacewalk less exciting for the public, but ultimately, most spacewalks are just another highly complicated station maintenance trip.

We can only hope that soon enough another ISS mission with a lot of amazing female astronauts can set this milestone in human space exploration


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