Walking in the space reserved for women is "inevitable", but sorry, this combination is not the right one


From left to right: NASA astronauts Nick Hague, Christina Koch and Anne McClain. The photo was taken on Friday, March 22 just before an exit in the space of the ISS.
Image: NASA

Astronauts at the International Space Station have made 214 field trips in the last 21 years, but none has been an exclusively female enterprise. So it was very exciting early this month when NASA announced what was supposed to be the first release in the all-female space. A few days before the planned march, a sizing problem of the space suit means that one of the astronauts will be replaced by a man.

NASA is currently conducting three spacewalks, the first of which was completed on Friday, March 22 by NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain. The second of these marches, scheduled for Friday, March 25, drew media and public attention when it was announced earlier this month that Christina Koch, NASA's astronaut, would participate in a exit into the space to exchange a station power battery. would have been the first release in the entirely female space of history.

Alas, it was not meant to be, as NASA explained in a press release last night:

However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission officials decided to adjust the assignments, in part because of the availability of space suits on the station. McClain learned during his first outing in the space that a medium-sized upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fit him best. Because only one medium-sized torso can be prepared by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it.


After all the enthusiasm aroused by a first outing in the all-female space, it is very disappointing to see her canceled due to a lack of equipment for the female crew.

Up to now, there have been 214 exits in space outside the ISS, all composed of either exclusively male teams or compound tandems. a man and a woman. The exit to the women's area was greeted with generous enthusiasm, but the sudden cancellation quickly turned the story. And the reason cited – the space suits that do not fit women – added an ironic salt to the wound.

It was not until the spacewalk on March 22 that McClain realized that the medium-sized space suit with the top of the rigid torso would be best for him. She was wearing a large torso when she went out into space, only to find that she was not comfortable. It was an unexpected turn of events and not a NASA project. Sizing of space suits is done on the ground, but things can change in space. As Mary Lawrence, director of NASA's Space Flight Division, said at a press conference held last week, and relayed by SpaceNews: "When they board, we know to About how big they fit, of course, your body slightly changes offsets or an elongation of the spine. "

The ISS is currently equipped with a medium-sized second torso, but it has not been configured and will not be ready for release in March 29th. The combinations on the ISS are unisex, said NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz in an email to Gizmodo. They are designed in different ways to match each astronaut. The elements that make up a complete space suit come in a variety of sizes, which are blended and tailored to customize a spatial suit depending on a specific individual, she said.

"The element that came into play here is the hard upper part of the torso," Schierholz said. "On board the space station, we have two medium torsos, two large and two very large. However, one of the brackets and one of the larger ones are spare parts that would require extra time to be set up for an exit into space. The configuration of the rescue medium for spacewalk would take approximately 12 hours of space time in the space and would pose additional risks as it would expose the hard torso interfaces to the survival system.

Instead, and to avoid unnecessary delays, it made more sense for NASA to simply postpone assigned missions. On this note, Hague will join Koch for the spacewalk on March 29, while McClain will join Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacque for the spacewalk.

Now, with the new assignments, NASA can continue its outings in space. The ISS is currently preparing for upcoming busy weeks, including tours of a Russian cargo ship Progress, a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft and a SpaceX Dragon cargo cargo capsule. .

It will be unfortunate if we have to wait much longer for an outing in the all-female space. As Schierholz told Gizmodo: "We think that an exit into the all-female space is inevitable; it will just not be this Friday.

"This is made more likely by the increase in the percentage of women who have become astronauts: 50% of the class of 2013 astronaut candidates are women (including McClain and Koch), and 11 members of the 2017 class of astronaut candidates. – who is still in training, five are women, "she said.

Impressive. But these developments in the field must be accompanied by developments in space, such as equipment preconfigured to meet the needs of all crew members. More excuses.

[NASA, SpaceNews]
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