When NASA announced that astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain would take part in the first all-female spacewalk, women everywhere were rightly excited. This was history in the making, 35 years after a woman first took part in space travel. Sadly, however, NASA has canceled plans as they were — and the reason why is frustrating.
No, it’s not because of some scientific glitch or mechanical issue. As reported by The Guardian, NASA only has access to one spacesuit sized to fit a woman. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Because of the lack of inclusive sizes, McClain is now being forced to give up her spot to a male astronaut. The pair were due to walk outside the International Space Station on Friday, March 29th to perform maintenance repairs.
“Anne trained in ‘M’ and ‘L’ and thought she could use a large but decided after [last] Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better,” Stephanie Schierholz, a spokeswoman for NASA, announced on Monday. “In this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change space-walkers than reconfigure the spacesuit.”
What does it take to get ready for a #spacewalk? A LOT!
Of course, the fit of a spacesuit is essential to safety, and it’s apparently trickier to get right than you might expect. But that leaves one to wonder why spacesuit sizing has only now become an issue. The disappointing news portrays women as an afterthought in the industry, and as one Twitter user says: “We have to stop assuming men are the default in scientific careers.”
NASA didn’t have enough spacesuits to fit an all women crew and they only needed 2. In the past spacewalks have been all men or man/woman. Women have been 11% of 500 astronauts in space. We have to stop assuming men are the default in scientific careers. https://t.co/53KeL3EFf5
As The Guardian notes, of the 500 individuals who have been to outer space, less than 11 percent of them have been female. Statistics like this further prove that women are underrepresented, and this historic walk signaled an effort toward changing that. Hopefully, this incident will bring more women to the room where decisions get made, and we’ll see the first all-female mission sooner rather than later.