All-Female Spacewalk Cancelled Due To Lack Of Smaller Spacesuits

Astronaut Anne McClain is being replaced by male colleague Nick Hague, NASA said.

NASA’s first ever all-female spacewalk is no longer going ahead as planned after spacesuit sizing issues forced one of the astronauts to be replaced.

News that the space agency was to make history and send two women astronauts – Christina Koch and Anne McClain – to space together was met with excitement earlier this month.

Teams sent to space have traditionally been all-male or male-female.

But plans for the walk, scheduled for Friday, were scuppered in part after McClain, who trained for the expedition in a size L, in the late stages decided that a size M would be a better fit, the space agency said.

For safety reasons, she had no choice but to pull out and be replaced, due to the length of time it would take to produce the new spacesuit.

Her replacement is male astronaut Nick Hague, who conducted the first spacewalk in the series with McClain on March 22. Still, it has left some enthusiasts disappointed.

NASA said in a statement: “Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk.

“However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station.

“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.”

Fitting a spacesuit can be a challenge to get right, thanks to microgravity in space which can make you taller.

According to Nasa, spacesuits are the most important gear of a spacewalk. The equipment helps shield astronauts against extreme temperatures – up to 250 degrees fahrenheit (121 C) or as low as minus 250 F (-156 C).

They are no light burden either, weighing in at 280lbs (127kg) on the ground but becoming weightless in space.

One suit takes 45 minutes to put on and is made up of interchangeable parts to accommodate astronauts of different sizes. Flight suits are built four months prior.

While Koch and McClain are part of Nasa’s 2013 class, half of which were women, only 11% of all 500 people who have been launched into space have been female.