NASA defends scrapping all-women spacewalk

American astronaut Anne McClain at work at the International Space Station on March 22, 2019
American astronaut Anne McClain at work at the International Space Station on March 22, 2019

NASA responded to accusations of sexism Wednesday over its decision to cancel a planned historic spacewalk by two women astronauts due to a lack of well-fitting spacesuits.

On Monday, the US space agency announced that Christina Koch will perform tasks in space Friday with fellow American Nick Hague—rather than with Anne McClain as originally planned.

Had Koch and McClain done their together, it would have been the first ever by two women astronauts—out of more than 200 spacewalks since 1998.

Only one medium-sized spacesuit is currently available aboard the International Space Station—where Koch and McClain are staying with four American, Canadian and Russian men.

But both women recently realized they needed the medium size.

Space fans and feminists alike denounced the decision to cancel the all-women spacewalk, seeing implicit sexism in traditionally male-dominated NASA's failure to be adequately prepared for both women to venture out into space together.

"Make another suit," former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Twitter.

Julie Cohen, director and producer of the "RBG" documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, added: "C'mon NASA...? We can send a man to the moon, but we can't assemble two lady-sized spacesuits? #SpaceWalk."

The spacesuits aboard the ISS are in fact assemblies of several parts put together as best adapted to each astronaut's body. Two hard upper torso parts in each of the three available sizes are currently held at the ISS: medium, large and extra large.

But only one medium and one extra-large hard upper torso parts are currently operational. The others are spare parts that require a 12-hour assembly, according to NASA.

"Twelve additional hours of crew time would mean delaying the date of the spacewalk, which would be difficult with the station's schedule for cargo vehicles and adding additional stress to the crew's schedule," said NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean.

She also stressed that "the original pairing was not intentionally planned to bring about the first all-female spacewalk, it was just the way it worked out."

McClain herself sought to exonerate NASA.

"This decision was based on my recommendation," she tweeted.

"Leaders must make tough calls, and I am fortunate to work with a team who trusts my judgement. We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated. Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first."

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NASA scraps all-women spacewalk for lack of well-fitting suits

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Mar 27, 2019
An embarrassing logistical planning error seems like a plausible explanation, though the fact that the suit size wasn't an issue a few days ago and that nothing material has changed since then would seem to raise the specter of more questions than have been satisfyingly answered. Even if we accept all this, it means that this isn't happening because NASA couldn't be bothered to invest twelve hours in a suit reconfiguration and that seems like a poor choice in terms of public outreach and human equality in orbit. Nobody walks away from this satisfied, and how much did they spend to train the astronaut whose spacewalk has been cancelled?

Mar 27, 2019
So, now in space they are saying -- "I have nothing to wear".

Mar 28, 2019
Space walks are for white men only.

Mar 28, 2019
This is real simple: the mission comes first. Anyone who doesn't get this is incompetent to comment.

Mar 28, 2019
This is real simple: the mission comes first. Anyone who doesn't get this is incompetent to comment.

How about the mission planning, Da Schitts, does that come second?
You incompetent, simpleton!

Mar 28, 2019
It's incredible how people, who seem to not grasp just how difficult life and work IN SPACE is, scream sexism where there is absoloutely none.

Just a quick calculation for those who think 12 hours are just an excuse
The following estimation is VERY in favor of those "just do the 12 hours extra" people
Nasa alone pays about 3 billion per year for the ISS (obviously not only they spend money tho)
Lets say there are an average of 5 people up there (3-6)
This means, 12 hours for a single person are roughly - grab something to hold on, dear sexism screamers - 840THOUSAND dollars

So you want nasa to basically throw this much mone down the toilet for... basically nothing.
Nothing is gained from two women doing the work, they are not better suited to do it.

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