All-female spacewalk nixed due to spacesuit switch

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain swap batteries during a spacewalk. (NASA Photo)

History’s first all-female spacewalk will have to wait for another time after NASA switched the lineup for two upcoming extravehicular outings at the International Space Station.

NASA had planned to have astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch go out together on Friday to upgrade a set of batteries for the station’s solar arrays. But today the space agency said it was assigning Koch and crewmate Nick Hague to that spacewalk. McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques are tentatively scheduled to perform a follow-up spacewalk on April 8.

The reason has to do with spacesuit sizes: During her first-ever spacewalk on March 22, McClain learned that a medium-size hard upper torso was the best fit for her. But only one medium-size torso could be made ready for Friday’s outing, and NASA decided that Koch should wear it.

That left Hague as NASA’s preferred candidate to accompany Koch, wearing a spacesuit of a different size.

Having two women handle a spacewalk would have been a first. Women have been doing spacewalks since 1984, but always in the company of men.

The fact that the lineup was revised due to a sizing issue irked some folks.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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