First female release completely thwarted by the question of the size of the spacesuit – Spaceflight Now


NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Nick Hague (right) during a check of their spacesuit aboard the International Space Station. Anne McClain assisted the astronauts in the preparation process. Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Nick Hague will take the place of Anne McClain on Friday during an outing in space, outside the International Space Station, teaming up with her teammate Christina Koch to continue a series of battery upgrades during an excursion that would have been the first outing in the all-female space.

NASA officials announced the crew change on Monday after McClain decided, after an outing in space, to work better in a combination with a medium-sized upper torso. Only one moderately hard torso, which forms the upper part of the space suit, is currently available for space travel on the space station.

On their release into space last Friday, McClain and Hague connected three new lithium-ion batteries to the space station's electrical network. Hague and Koch will install three more batteries and their adapter plates during the release in Friday's space.

"Koch was to perform this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first release in the all-female space," NASA said in a statement on Monday. "However, after consulting McClain and Hague after the first spacewalk, mission officials decided to adjust the tasks, in part because of the availability of space suits on the station.

"McClain learned during his first outing in space that a medium-sized rigid torso – essentially the shirt of the space suit – suited him best," the statement said. "Because only one medium-sized torso can be prepared by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it."

According to NASA's initial plan, McClain had to wear a wide and stiff bust at the next spacewalk. NASA officials said they have given the original missions to the space exploration team to ensure that all first-time space travelers have an experience in space exploration. exit in the space.

Many astronauts, including McClain, train on several sizes of spacesuits. But the individual sizing preferences of an astronaut can change once in space, as prolonged exposure to microgravity can cause changes in the human body. Typically, a narrower space suit enhances the mobility of an astronaut in the space.

McClain, a former US Army helicopter pilot, wore the moderately hard upper torso last Friday and decided it was better than the upper torso.

NASA space suits designed for spacewalks, called extravehicular mobility units, are modular with interchangeable torsos, arms, legs and helmets. There are currently hard upper torso of medium, large and very large size on the space station. A second medium sized unit currently on the station would need extra time to prepare for an outing in space, NASA said, and officials have decided to keep the tour at the station. planned time by modifying crew assignments.

A third spacewalk of the current series is scheduled for April 8th. McClain will carry the upper torso of medium size and will be joined outside the space station by Canadian flight engineer David Saint-Jacques.

McClain became the 13th woman to make an exit in space last Friday, and Koch will be the 14th this Friday.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague, apparently concealed by the solar panels of the International Space Station, retrieves batteries and plates from an external paddle during an outing in the USSR. # 39; space. Credit: NASA

NASA safety panel raises concerns about aging of space suits

NASA still uses space suits originally developed 40 years ago for the space shuttle program. With maintenance in orbit of astronauts and occasional rotations on Earth aboard commercial supply vessels, NASA expects the current number of combinations to remain operational until at least 2024.

Spatial suits designed for spacewalks are more robust and perform better than the combinations used by astronauts during launch and landing on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and the new SpaceX Crew Dragon and Space Capsules. Boeing CST-100 Starliner.

NASA originally built 18 survival backpacks for UEMs in the shuttle era, and 11 of them are still certified for spaceflight, according to a 2017 report from the US. Inspector General of NASA reviewing the agency's space suit projects. Five of the resuscitation units, the most complex part of the suits, were destroyed during missions, including two on the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia accidents and one on a SpaceX cargo rocket that failed during the launch.

The space suits of the time of the shuttles were not to remain in space for years, contrary to what they are now for the space station. The NASA Inspector General wrote in 2017 that "space suits operate in a different environment aboard the ISS, with longer periods between refurbishment and some maintenance tasks performed in orbit.

"This has highlighted several shortcomings in the design of EMU," the inspector general wrote, highlighting his concerns about water leaks and the limited ability of astronauts to perform repairs in space. The Agency's internal oversight body also noted limitations on the size of the suits, as well as the propensity of the gloves to cause injuries to the hand,

NASA is currently working on a new space suit concept called EMU Exploration, which could be ready for a demonstration run outside the space station in 2023. The modernized space suit would also be designed for exits from missions far from the Earth. , such as the proximity of the moon.

In NASA's 2017 Space Combination Project Report, the agency's Inspector General said NASA has spent nearly $ 200 million on space suit development efforts since 2007.

"Despite this investment, the agency will not need a ready-to-fly space suit that can replace EMU or use EVA for future exploration missions," the inspector wrote. general.

More recently, members of the Independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Group, or ASAP, discussed space suit development efforts at a meeting on March 7.

"The maintenance of EVA suits remains a challenge and a priority," said Richard Williams, a former NASA medical and health executive, who sits on the safety committee.

Williams announced on March 7 that NASA was currently studying the possibility of extending the lifespan of current space suits until 2028.

Patricia Sanders, president of ASAP, urged NASA to prioritize a new generation space suit.

"Rather than continuing to spend resources to extend the life of existing combinations, it would be very useful for them to be able to hear more quickly with a replacement combination, which we believe would be useful for long term, "Sanders said.

"They are doing heroic things to extend the life of the current suit, but we really have to think long term," said Susan Helms, former space shuttle astronaut and space station, member of the ASAP.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.

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