June 24, 2021

NASA cancels the first spacewalk of two women for lack of suits | Science

NASA cancels the first spacewalk of two women for lack of suits | Science



When NASA was preparing to send a woman into space for the first time, Sally Ride, the agency's engineers realized they had no idea what a woman was like. It was going to be a six-day trip and they asked Ride if 100 tampons would suffice. NASA specialists also had problems designing their special suits because they did not know exactly how he urinated. They have spent more than 30 years of those anecdotes, but in the US space agency they still have problems integrating women. NASA had proudly announced that March 29 would be the first spacewalk in which only female astronauts would participate, but had to cancel due to lack of suits.

During the spacewalk that McClain made last week he realized that fits that size better for the top of the suit

The plan was for astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain to leave together outside the International Space Station on a six-hour mission in which to install lithium-ion batteries that improve the laboratory's energy supply. But NASA only has a suit of medium size, the size that the two astronauts need. During the spacewalk that McClain made last week he noticed that he fits better that size for the top of the suit, like Koch. But there is only one prepared for the mission, so on the 29th only Koch will go out to carry out the mission with his partner Nick Hague, explains NASA in a statement.

This failure in the logistics of a mission of this type surprises NASA, now that it intended to put on a medal with a milestone like the first exclusive women's spacewalk, after a long past of gender discrimination. And especially today, given the progress the agency has made in female astronautics. In 1983, when Ride went into space, there were hardly any women in the Johnson Space Center, the one in charge of missions with astronauts. However, her last director was a woman, astronaut Elle Ochoa. In addition, the NASA astronaut who holds the absolute record of permanence in space It's Commander Peggy Whitson, with 665 days, above any man.

A spokeswoman for NASA, Stephanie Schierholz, clarified yesterday that they do have two suits of medium size in the station, but that only one is conditioned for this mission abroad, according to the report. New York Times. McClain thought he could do the work with the big size, but after his walk last week he discovered that the medium is better, the same size that Koch uses. "When you have the option to change people, the mission becomes more important than a great milestone," acknowledged Schierholz. Precisely, McClain tweeted a few days ago a video that shows the meticulous work of maintenance of space suits.

Women astronauts have suffered numerous obstacles in their particular space race, with conscious discriminations and unexpected inconveniences like the one suffered by McClain and Koch. When in 2014 Europe sent two women to the International Space Station for the first time, Russian cosmonaut Elena Serova had to listen to questions about her makeup and hairdo by journalists. "Why do not you ask Alexandr about his hairstyle?" answered Serova in reference to the cosmonaut Alexandr Samokutyaev, sitting next to him. With the trip of McClain and Koch, there are already 63 women who are or have been astronauts, which represents 11% of the people who have been in space throughout history.

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