NASA cancels first all-female spacewalk due to lack of spacesuit sizes

Enlarge ImageNASA astronauts Christina Koch Anne Mc Clain and Nick Hague make up half the current ISS crew.                  NASA

They're about 240 miles above our heads, orbiting in a 925,000-pound spacecraft - and they were poised to make history.

It was to be an inspiring end to Women's History Month, with Anne McClain and Christina Koch becoming the first female duo to conduct a spacewalk installing batteries outside the space station.

But now, it appears that won't be happening.

Two more women, Mary Lawrence, lead flight director, and Jackie Kagey, lead spacewalk flight controller, were also scheduled to take part from Houston.

According to the NASA website, "donning" a spacesuit isn't as easy as it seems.

And then, it was canceled.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain waves while performing a spacewalk on March 22, 2019.

The change of plans sparked a backlash from social media users, who questioned why the agency doesn't have enough spacesuits to fit the women on the space station. NASA has a limited availability of spacewalking spacesuits and there is only one medium-size top on the space station. At one point, they did come in a size small, but that was cut in the '90s during a redesign period.

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On Earth a spacesuit can weigh up 280 pounds on the ground, without the astronaut in it.

"NASA said fitting spacesuits is tricky".

The spacesuits are not as a simple task as what we think.

She added that sizes were medium, large and extra large. After the March 22 spacewalk, though, she determined that the medium suit was a better fit for her.

As of now, McClain will perform her second spacewalk on April 8, for the third of the series.

Two mediums existed on the ISS, but only one was prepped for a spacewalk.

Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were supposed to make the historic spacewalk on Friday, when they were to install lithium-ion batteries to one pair of the station's solar arrays. That's despite there having been 216 spacewalks since the beginning of the ISS in 1998. The first walk was done by McClain and Hague earlier this month, and Friday, Koch and McClain were sent to finishing it up.

Perhaps this missed milestone will be a lesson for NASA to have the proper equipment prepared for crews of all shapes and sizes - something that is already important as human proportions often change as the spine lengthens slightly in microgravity. Back in 2013, they were members of the first astronaut class made up of 50 percent women.

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