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"Make another suit," Clinton tells NASA after the All-Female Spacewalk



Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate, whose pantsuits became a political fashion statement now makes a statement about NASA spacesuits.

After NASA canceled its first all-female spacewalk in history for lack of space suits small enough for the average woman, Clinton agreed with her advice. "Make another suit," she tweeted on Tuesday (March 26).

Clinton has long campaigned for gender equality and empowering women and almost became the first president of the United States when she narrowly lost the 2016 elections. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that she continues to promote the equal treatment of women in post-electoral life. But NASA will not take Clinton's advice to make another suit to reach this great milestone for women in space, because the situation is not that easy.

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For a construction of another spacesuit in orbit would require about 12 hours of crew work, said NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz to Space.com. "Given the very busy schedule on board the station this spring – the spacewalks and several replenishment missions that will arrive in April – the teams decided to stick to the schedule by exchanging spacewalkers rather than reconfiguring a space suit," he said you.

But why did not NASA have two of the right suits of the right size at their disposal, knowing that two women would take a spacewalk together? If the agency already had all the parts in the universe, why did not you intend to use it? While many have speculated that NASA has not adequately planned their own spacewalk, a point that remains controversial, it is important to know that NASA has decided to hire one of the female spacewalkers through one of its male counterparts after having made this request herself.

When NASA astronaut Anne McClain trained for her spacewalks on Earth, she was able to perform all her tasks in both medium and large space suits. In the meantime, NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who was originally intended as a McClain spacewalker this Friday, has always carried a medium, said Schierholz. Medium is the smallest suit NASA offers. Usually it has the size that women wear during spacewalks. McClain was just a different size and she felt she could wear one of them.

To prepare for three spacewalks (scheduled for March 22, March 29, and April 29), the Expedition 59 crew assembled two suits officially known as Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), which are worn by the Spaceman pairs should. One is a medium size and the other is a big one.

McClain wore both sizes of suits not only during her training on Earth, but also on the Passport Space Station to tune her in the way her body changed in weightlessness. For example, earlier this month she reported that she had grown in space by 5 cm (5 cm). Astronauts often become larger in outer space as their spines relax and lengthen when not exposed to gravity.

After completing her first spacewalk last week, McClain decided she did not want to try wearing the big suit for her second spacewalk. Although she adjusted well during training on Earth and then got even bigger in space, she felt that the larger suit was less comfortable and more difficult to work with, adding to the risk for an already risky job, Schierholz said. Instead, McClain will be replaced by NASA astronaut Nick Hague, who wore the big suit during the spacewalk last week.

It is true that NASA's 40-year-old NASA spacesuits were built for the then "average" astronaut – in other words, the average male astronaut, given the lack of women who had then entered space. NASA has also long been plagued by gender inequality, much like most institutions in this country. But the fact that McClain is not the first female all-female spacewalk has less to do with gender bias than with an astronaut's personal preferences – a decision that NASA was unpredictable.

E-mail Hanneke Weitering at [email protected] or follow her @ hannekescience . Follow us on Twitter @SpaceTotcom and Facebook .


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