History’s first all-female spacewalk will have to wait for another time after NASA switched the lineup for two upcoming extravehicular outings at the International Space Station.
NASA had planned to have astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch go out together on Friday to upgrade a set of batteries for the station’s solar arrays. But today the space agency said it was assigning Koch and crewmate Nick Hague to that spacewalk. McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques are tentatively scheduled to perform a follow-up spacewalk on April 8.
The reason has to do with spacesuit sizes: During her first-ever spacewalk on March 22, McClain learned that a medium-size hard upper torso was the best fit for her. But only one medium-size torso could be made ready for Friday’s outing, and NASA decided that Koch should wear it.
That left Hague as NASA’s preferred candidate to accompany Koch, wearing a spacesuit of a different size.
The fact that the lineup was revised due to a sizing issue irked some folks:
NASA just canceled the first all-female spacewalk because it won't have enough suits that fit women astronauts ready in time.
I guess sexism really can transcend the Earthly plane. https://t.co/vmAXI1KUDl
— Erin Blakemore (@heroinebook) March 25, 2019
NASA: So, we need to make sure every astronaut doing their dangerous jobs on a spacewalk has a correctly fitting suit. Turns out one of our astronauts needs a different fit and we can't have it ready on time, so we replaced her on the "all female spacewalk".
— Signe Dean (@nevertoocurious) March 25, 2019
However, it’s not the first time that the size of a spacesuit (and the person wearing it) played an outsized role in crew selection issues: In 1997, NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence had to be replaced on a long-term mission to Russia’s Mir space station because at 5-foot-3, she was too short to wear the adjustable-size Russian spacesuit that was to be used for spacewalks.
Another NASA astronaut, Scott Parazynski, was deemed too tall (at 6-foot-2) to fit into the Russian Soyuz capsule in the event of an emergency. As a result, he was excluded from long-term visits to Mir as well.
Because of the size issue, Lawrence and Parazynski earned the nicknames “Too Short” and “Too Tall,” respectively.
Previously: Two rookie spacewalkers took on a battery replacement project on the International Space Station last Friday.
During the six-hour, 39-minute operation, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain replaced a set of outdated nickel-hydrogen batteries with more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays.
NASA said the astronauts also accomplished several get-ahead tasks, including scraping up bits of debris on the station’s exterior and photographing a bag of repair tools and the airlock thermal cover that’s opened and closed for spacewalks.
Another set of batteries for a different power channel is due to be replaced during a second spacewalk. Hague will be joined by NASA’s Christina Koch, who’ll be making her first-ever spacewalk.
McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques are tentatively due to take on the third spacewalk in the series on April 8. They’ll lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and a spot on the midpoint of the station’s backbone to establish a redundant path for power to the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm.
They’ll also install cables to expand wireless communication coverage and hard-wired computer networking capability.
This is an updated version of a report first published at 2:46 p.m. PT March 22.