NASA is Short on Spacesuits for Women, Cancels First All-Women Spacewalk

The agency insists it didn’t slight the women and claims it is diversifying, but it doesn’t spell diversity when you don’t supply people with the tools to do their job.

This was scheduled to be the first all-women spacewalk, during Women’s History Month, but it was cancelled because only one suit fits.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain were to make the walk on March 29 but male astronaut Nick Hague will now take McClain’s place.

“When you are finally in space and you’re finally looking back at Earth and you realize for the first time in your life there’s nothing standing between you and your dream, it’s just so hard to describe the profound impact of that,” an excited McClain told NPR in February when discussing the plans for the walk.

Why didn’t NASA make sure they had the proper suit needed for a woman to make the spacewalk?

Only 11 suits were made 40 years ago. They were meant to last only 15 years. And the one suit that is on track to be completed has topped $200 million.

Since 1998, there have been 213 spacewalks at the space station. A small fraction of them have been done by women.

The agency currently lists 38 active astronauts on its website, and 12 are women. Half of the 2013 class, including Koch and McClain, were women. Leadership and administrators are still largely male. Even as NASA plans to diversify, equipment needed to meet the needs of the workforce is clearly not a priority.

Social media was not impressed and voiced it:

NASA’s response:

Peggy Whitson holds the record for the most space walks with eight, followed by Suni Williams with seven.

Wonder if they both wore the same suit?

“NASA has been sending women into space since 1983. ‘Oops, no suit’ 36 years later is absurd and entirely indicative of a failure to take gender inclusion seriously,” tweeted Stephanie Nolen, author of Promised the Moon: The Untold Story of the First Women in the Space Race.

Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to complete a spacewalk in 1984, and women have had many firsts, including Whitson’s record for most cumulative time spent in space with over 665 days logged.

In 2010, three female astronauts from different missions met at the international space station: Tracy Caldwell Dyson flew in on a Soyuz spacecraft, and NASA astronauts Stephanie Wilson and Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, along with Japan’s Naoko Yamazaki, arrived aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

Wilson, a Black astronaut, had spent the most time in space out of all Black astronauts.

 

With the history of women persevering, however, this journey is far from complete.

In the words of Dr. Mae Jamison, “People can put obstacles in front of you, and you have a choice,” she said. “You can sit there and try to make them change or you can go around it.”

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