NASA says it has cancelled what was set to be the first ever all-female spacewalk due to a shortage of appropriately sized outerwear after one of the two women astronauts had to change her preferred size.
Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were set to carry out the historic spacewalk on March 29 for a mission to install lithium-ion batteries on the International Space Station’s solar arrays.
However, NASA said that McClain would no longer be able to partake in the spacewalk after she realized after a previous spacewalk that large-sized outerwear didn’t fit her as well as medium — and only one medium-sized outer shirt can be arranged by March 29.
McClain conducted her first spacewalk with male astronaut Nick Hague on March 22.
“McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best,” NASA said in a statement.
“Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it.”
NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said in a tweet that McClain trained for spacewalking in both medium and large sizes and thought she would use a large. However, she decided after the March 22 spacewalk that a medium fits her better.
“In this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit,” Schierholz said.
Koch will now be joined by Hague for the March 28 spacewalk, NASA said.
McClain is tentatively scheduled to perform her next spacewalk with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques on April 8.
That spacewalk will see the astronauts lay out jumper cables to set up a power backup for the Canadian-built robotic arm Canadarm2.
They will also install cables to enable better wireless communications coverage and to boost hardwired computer networking on the station.
WATCH: Astronauts conduct spacewalk to affix new ‘hands’ onto the Canadarm (Feb. 16, 2018)
There have been 214 spacewalks on the International Space Station since 1998, but all spacewalk teams so far have comprised at least one man.
Less than 11 per cent of the more than 500 people who have been to space have been women.
McClain and Koch were part of NASA’s historic astronaut class of 2013, which was 50 per cent women — four women among the eight participants selected to join the astronaut training program.
NASA said its most recent class of flight directors was also 50 per cent women.