Hillary Clinton Fires Off Response To NASA’s Female Spacesuit Problem

Pat Wise
March 29, 2019

NASA has cancelled its planned all-women spacewalk at the International Space Station this week over limited spacesuit sizes for participating astronauts. The two will spend 6.5 hours outside the station, continuing the work Hague and McClain started a week before, by swapping out older nickel-hydrogen batteries for new lithium-ion batteries, to upgrade the station's power systems. In what is essentially the "t-shirt" area of the Enhanced EMU suit astronauts wear on spacewalks, the Hard Upper Torso (H.U.T.) comes in three sizes: Medium, Large and XL.

Koch will become the 14th woman to perform a spacewalk on Friday, according to the agency. McClain, who was supposed to travel with Christina Koch, attempted to walk and manoeuvre in the large-size suit during testing last week, but in the end, it was determined she'd best be able to accomplish her mission in a medium-size suit. In this case, NASA doesn't want to put McClain in a spacesuit that doesn't fit her well for the sole objective of hitting the "first all-female spacewalk" milestone.

Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk.

But if and when the scheduling rotation again allows for an all-female crew to conduct a spacewalk, Sullivan did share a piece of advice for the crew inspired by her experiences in space. There are two astronauts, but only one spacesuit.

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"Spacewalk assignments may be adjusted if the flight operations team deems it necessary", NASA writes on its website. Stephanie Schierholz, a spokesperson for NASA, explained on Monday, "Anne trained in M and L and thought she could use a large but decided after Friday's spacewalk a medium fits better". Unfortunately, there'll only be one suit available in this size - and it also fits Koch.

McClain will still get to do another spacewalk on April 8, NASA said, but she'll also be joined by a male astronaut.

These spacewalks are months late, and with cargo deliveries coming up, NASA wants to keep everything on track. We're now going to have to wait longer for the first all-female spacewalk.

"Astronauts typically describe spacewalks as the most physically challenging thing they do", she said. NPR reported in 2017 that the organization has only 11 spacesuits, or extravehicular mobility units, which were all designed more than 40 years ago.

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