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.
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.
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.