Published: Wed, March 27, 2019
Research | By Sheri Schwartz

First ever all-female spacewalk won't happen this week after all

First ever all-female spacewalk won't happen this week after all

Ms McClain realised that the medium-size spacesuit suited her best when she worked outside the station on 22 March.

In a statement released on Monday, NASA said its decision was made due to "spacesuit availability on the station".

Half the reason this spacewalk was so incredible was because it was taking place during Women's History Month, but the mission was scrapped because there was only one size medium spacesuit in the entire International Space Station.

Koch will now do the spacewalk on Friday with a male astronaut, Nick Hague. During the excursion, they will continue work started by McCain and Hague to install powerful lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station's solar arrays. She was selected as an astronaut for NASA in 2013.

In the entire history of space exploration, less than 11% of the more than 500 people who have been to space have been female.

When McClain did a spacewalk with fellow astronaut Nick Hague on March 22, she discovered that the medium-size upper torso portion of the spacesuit fit her best.

Nearly 35 years ago, in On Oct. 11, 1984, Sullivan took her first steps in space. As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reported in 2006, opportunities for women may have been hampered by the fact that spacesuits only came in medium, large and extra-large sizes.

NASA has canceled its historic all-female spacewalk because it doesn't have enough space suit to fit the astronauts. She is scheduled to partake in the upcoming April 8 walk.

But, "what really gives me the greatest satisfaction", Sullivan said, about the now-canceled spacewalk, is that "it isn't a stunt, [it's a] effect of there being enough women now in the astronaut ranks, now in the flight ranks, now serving as flight directors".

That spacewalk will see the astronauts lay out jumper cables to set up a power backup for the Canadian-built robotic arm Canadarm2.

Hague and McClain completed the initial spacewalk earlier this month. Until now, male-only or mixed male-female teams had conducted spacewalks since the space station was assembled in 1998 - 214 spacewalks until now.

McClain, a U.S. Army officer and a pilot, "wanted to be an astronaut from the time I was 3 or 4 years old", she said in a 2015 NASA video interview.

The spacewalk being a cultural milestone during Women's History Month was entirely coincidental and was not guaranteed to happen from the outset.

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