Suit-Gate: Nasa Cancels All-Female Spacewalk Due To Lack Of Spacesuits
It was meant to be one giant leap for womankind, a moment that would be watched around the world and felt deeply. After the #MeToo movement, the protest marches, and the calls for equality across all professions, finally it seemed NASA was taking note.
But now their plans for the first all-female spacewalk have fallen through – at least in part because the agency doesn’t have enough spacesuits that fit the astronauts.
Oh dear. What should have been a giant leap for womankind the world over has turned into a major stumble.
The first-of-its kind mission was to take place on 29 March, with Christina Koch and Anne McClain walking outside the International Space Station (ISS) to install new batteries. In the past, missions had always been all-male or male-female.
But according to Nasa, only one spacesuit that is the correct size will be available by Friday, when the walk was scheduled. Consequently, one of the two women on the mission, McClain, will now have to give up her place to a male colleague.
McClain thought a large-sized suit would be fine but after a spacewalk last week found that the medium-sized suit was a better fit and would be the most appropriate to wear on the venture outside the International Space Station.
“Anne trained in ‘M’ and ‘L’ and thought she could use a large but decided after [last] Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better,” a NASA spokeswoman, Stephanie Schierholz announced on Monday.
“In this case, it’s easier (and faster) to change space-walkers than reconfigure the spacesuit,” Schierholz added.
For those following the highly anticipated mission on social media, the news was a source of great disappointment and frustration. Many have seen the all-female spacewalk to be something that was overdue, and now, after what can only be described as ‘suit-gate’, the female-led walk will only be pushed back further.
While the news is unquestionably sad, it has to be said that the women’s space exploration has been deferred simply because safety comes first.
Emily Lakdawalla, a senior editor at the US non-profit the Planetary Society, wrote on Twitter: “An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen.”
I'm suuper 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." An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen. https://t.co/LRob2RHvxq— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) 25 March 2019
You have to admire such optimism, and certainly to see more women venture out into space is something fans and NASA themselves are hoping to encourage. The first woman to perform a spacewalk was the Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, 35 years ago. More than 500 people have been into space, but only 11 per cent have been women.
Hopefully, the first all-women spacewalk isn’t too far off. Nasa now needs to get a wardrobe stocked with various sized spacesuits, pronto.