27 Mar 2019

Nasa's first all-female spacewalk scrapped over spacesuit sizes

5:49 pm on 27 March 2019

Plans for the first all-female spacewalk in history have been scrapped for lack of a second space suit, the US space agency Nasa says.

Nasa's first all-female spacewalk scrapped over spacesuit sizes

Nasa's first all-female spacewalk scrapped over spacesuit sizes Photo: Supplied / Nasa

Christina Koch and Anne McClain had been scheduled to step outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday to install batteries.

But it turned out they both needed a medium-size spacesuit and only one was ready for use.

Koch will now exit the ISS with male colleague Nick Hague instead.

She will wear the medium-size suit used by McClain on a spacewalk with Hague last week.

McClain trained in both medium and large-size spacesuits but only realised after her actual spacewalk that the medium-size suit fitted her best, Nasa said.

She is scheduled to perform her next spacewalk, on 8 April, with another male astronaut, David Saint-Jacques.

What exactly is the problem with the suits?

The issue relates to the spacesuit's hard upper torso or "shirt".

Nasa has two medium-size hard upper torsos on the ISS but only one of them has been properly configured for a spacewalk.

To get the other ready would have taken hours and Nasa decided it would be easier and safer to change the astronauts.

Brandi Dean, a spokeswoman for the Johnson Space Center in Houston, explained that size requirements could change once astronauts were in space.

"Individuals' sizing needs may change when they are [in] orbit, in response to the changes living in microgravity can bring about in a body," she was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.


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