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NASA breaks first all-female spacewalk about spacesuit sizes



It had not been planned as a historic mission, but it would have represented a moment of sorts: the first spacewalk for women.

But that moment, as NASA said on Monday, will have to wait a bit for a reason – space suit sizes.

The two astronauts who wished to walk in space together on Friday, Anne C. McClain and Christina H. Koch, both had to wear a medium-sized torso component. However, only one is available on the International Space Station.

The mission itself is unchanged. On Friday, two astronauts will embark on a six-hour mission to the space station to install massive lithium-ion batteries that power the research lab. Ms. Koch is still planned together with her astronaut colleague Nick Hague. Ms. McClain made her first spacewalk last week.

But the first woman to be outside the space station's boundaries must pass another day. "After the first spacewalk with McClain and Hague, the mission managers decided to adjust the orders, in part due to the availability of space suits on the station," NASA said in a 19459007 release.

Stephanie Schierholz, a spokeswoman NASA said in an interview on Monday that there were already two medium-sized hard-bodied – "essentially the shirt of space suit," according to NASA – at the space station.

However, there were a few problems. Ms. McClain had thought that she would be able to work in a large torso, but after her spacewalk last Friday, she wore a medium-sized torso and learned that he was more in keeping with her. Ms. Koch also uses the same size.

And of the two available medium-sized torsos, one must be properly configured for a spacewalk. It would take hours of crewwork – not to mention an extra risk – to fix it in time for Friday. Instead of doing so, NASA decided to simply exchange the astronauts. Anne McClain Credit Robert Markowitz / NASA

In the end, both women took a spacewalk – just not together. 19659002] "If you only have the opportunity to change people, the mission becomes more important than a cool milestone," said Ms. Schierholz.

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On Friday, Ms. Koch and assisted Mr. Hague with a local team, which includes a number of key women, including Spacewalk Chief Flight Officer Mary Lawrence and Chief Officer Jackie Kagey.

At a meeting at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Ms. Lawrence, Ms. Kagey, and Kenneth Todd, Station Operations Operations Integration Manager did not immediately recognize the significance of the original line for the "extravehicular activity" on Friday or EVA.

It was not until they discussed the schedule during a meeting that they realized that it was the first time they had planned a spacewalk planned exclusively for women. Mrs. Schierholz said that while there are no concrete plans for a spacewalk for women only, but the likelihood that NASA astronauts diversify in terms of gender is becoming increasingly likely.

"We somehow get to the point of inevitability, Mrs. Schierholz said of a purely female EVA.

McClain and Ms. Koch were part of the 19459024 astronaut class, and of the eight people in this class – selected from over 6,000 applicants – was half women, a first for NASA. The agency lists 38 active astronauts on its website, and 12 are women.

The current deployment of six Space Station astronauts – three Americans, one Canadian and two Russians – allows the team to complete a number of important projects. Mr Todd said, with the aim of ensuring that every crew member gains significant experience. NASA officials hope the relatively young American astronauts will continue to travel into space in the years to come and help new recruits in the future.

The batteries installed in this mission memory store solar energy that the station needs when it is not exposed to direct sunlight. Work on battery systems will continue over the next few years as international teams bring lithium-ion batteries more than 200 miles from Earth.

The missions require careful planning, and robots do the same. Work as well as possible before astronauts run the risk of flying into space. In the busy days before a spacewalk, the crew helps prepare and customize the space suits of their colleagues, who act as a mini-spaceship as they walk outside. Koch shared Twitter photos of her colleagues as they fit into the spacewalk last Friday.

"No ordinary battery replacement and working day," she wrote.


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