NASA astronaut who pulled out of first all-female spacewalk due to problems with spacesuit sizing hits back at critics and says ‘we must never accept a risk that can be mitigated’
- Astronauts Anne McClain, Christina Koch planned to lead spacewalk March 29
- The outing would be the first ever all-female spacewalk, NASA has confirmed
- After realizing problems with spacesuit sizing, McClain decided to back out
- Astronaut and NASA both cited crew safety as a main concern in the decision
NASA and Expedition 59 astronaut Anne McClain have a reminder for critics of the decision to scrap the first-ever all female spacewalk: safety is always the priority.
Their comments came after the space agency confirmed it had swapped out McClain for its March 29 excursion outside of the International Space Station, replacing her with Flight Engineer Nick Hague.
McClain was initially scheduled to be joining astronaut Christina Koch for the spacewalk, which would be routine in terms of space station operations but culturally historic.
After realizing the spacesuit she’d be wearing didn’t fit properly, however, McClain pulled out of the mission so it could move forward on schedule without the hindrance of having to modify another suit in less than a week’s time.
Both NASA and McClain have now spoken out about the decision after it was met with public outcry, asserting that it is safer and more efficient to simply switch astronauts instead of making last-minute alterations.
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NASA and Expedition 59 astronaut Anne McClain have a reminder for critics of the decision to scrap the first-ever all female spacewalk: safety is always the priority. Their comments came after the space agency confirmed it had swapped out McClain for its March 29 excursion
A BRIEF HISTORY OF WOMEN IN SPACE
Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963 – just two years after the first man.
In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to go to space during her historic flight on the space shuttle Challenger.
The following year, cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya walked in space for another historic first, on July 25, 1984.
A decade later, mission specialist Mae Jemison became the first black woman in space, aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.
‘This decision was based on my recommendation. Leaders must make tough calls, and I am fortunate to work with a team who trusts my judgement,’ McClain tweeted Wednesday morning.
‘We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated. Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first.’
McClain revealed earlier this week that she realized, during work outside the station, that she needed a medium-sized torso piece for her spacesuit, not the large she’d been wearing.
While there are two mediums aboard the ISS – with one already configured for Koch’s body – it would require hours to make the necessary adjustments to fit the astronaut.
The unisex spacesuits are made up of several parts, each of which must be assembled in a way that conforms to the astronaut’s body.
Not only would it be easier to have another astronaut step in, but it’s safer, too.
Expedition 59 astronauts Anne McClain (left) and Christina Koch (right) were scheduled to lead a roughly seven-hour spacewalk to attend tasks on the orbiting lab’s exterior, starting at 6:30 a.m. (ET) on March 29. McClain will now sit this one out
After realizing the spacesuit she’d be wearing didn’t fit properly, however, McClain pulled out of the mission so it could move forward on schedule without the hindrance of having to modify another suit in less than a week’s time. The decision was met with public outcry
Nevertheless, NASA has since been inundated by responses from the public, with many calling it out for not having enough spacesuits on board to fit both women.
But according to NASA, this is not an issue of gear shortage.
File photo of the International Space Station is shown
‘We’ve seen your tweets about spacesuit availability for Friday’s spacewalk,’ the space agency tweeted on Tuesday.
‘To clarify, we have more than 1 medium size spacesuit torso aboard, but to stay on schedule with @Space_Station upgrades, it’s safer & faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits.’
The spacewalk will still carry on as scheduled on March 29, now with Hague and Koch at the wheel.
The pair will continue swapping old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries as originally planned.
McClain is tentatively scheduled for her next spacewalk on April 8, with Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques.