The history-making, all-female spacewalk that was scheduled to happen on Friday, during Women’s History Month, has been canceled by NASA.
The cancellation is due in part to “spacesuit availability,” NASA announced Monday. In other words, the agency did not have enough spacesuits sized for women on the International Space Station.
The spacewalk was supposed to be led by NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch, with the assistance of Kristen Facciol, a Canadian Space Agency flight controller, on the ground in Houston.
Two more women, Mary Lawrence, lead flight director, and Jackie Kagey, lead spacewalk flight controller, were also scheduled to take part from Houston.
McClain, who has been stationed at the International Space Station since December, completed her first spacewalk on March 22 and discovered then that she needed a “medium-size hard upper torso,” or the shirt of the spacesuit, according to NASA.
That is apparently the same size worn by Koch, who arrived at the space station earlier this month. NASA has a limited availability of spacewalking spacesuits and there is only one medium-size top on the space station.
Koch will now do the spacewalk on Friday with a male astronaut, Nick Hague.
I’m in space! @AstroHague, Alexey, & I had a thrilling ride to @Space_Station in our Soyuz rocket. Coming through the hatch & reuniting with my 8-ball classmate @AstroAnnimal was a blissful moment. It’s been a busy first week full of hard work prepping for Friday's #Spacewalk! pic.twitter.com/O8GvEgcaD5— Christina H Koch (@Astro_Christina) March 19, 2019
McClain is now expected to perform her next spacewalk on April 8 with another male, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, according to NASA.
McClain and Koch are both part of the Expedition 59 crew at the International Space Station. They joined NASA in 2013, the year NASA's astronaut class was 50 percent female.
A spacewalk is defined by NASA as "anytime an astronaut gets out of a vehicle while in space." Friday’s spacewalk, to upgrade batteries on the space station, is expected to last around seven hours.
The revelation from NASA that it cannot outfit two female astronauts in spacesuits at the same time drew outrage on Twitter, including from former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Just found out the all female spacewalk scheduled by #NASA has been cancelled..wanna know why?
They didn't have enough "female sized" spacesuits.
I wish I was making this up.— Tammy Harrington (@tammyharrington) March 26, 2019
Shameful! #NASA has canceled the first all-women #spacewalk because the almighty organisation doesn't have enough the medium-size spacesuits for women. Instead of reconfiguring the existing spacesuits, the final decision is to replace a woman astronaut by a male colleague.— Maja Bjelos (@MajaBjelos) March 26, 2019
My friend is writing about problems facing male astronauts on an all-male spacewalk. Suggestions? #nasa— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) March 26, 2019
Ladies, who can relate?— Cat Williams (@dizzycatdesign) March 26, 2019
👩🏽🚀Women don’t have the necessary safety equipment to do their jobs because men’s sizes were prioritized & *shocking* women were ignored when they complained about this problem for years. #NASA
🚀great thread by @MaryRobinette 🚀👩🏽🚀 https://t.co/wOfjgsGpFB