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Not Enough Space Suit In Right Size: NASA Cancels All-Female Spacewalk

"Only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday."

On Monday, NASA canceled the all-female spacewalk of the two astronauts which should have happened Friday. The space agency blames a shortage of outerwear at the right size aboard the ISS.

Instead, Christina Koch will be sharing both spacewalk missions with American Nick Hague. Originally, she should have been joined by Anne McClain, making it the first all-female spacewalk in history.

So far, only men or a woman joined by a man have been on such missions since ISS was built in 1998, which represents 214 missions to this day.

The first spacewalk of the series was conducted by McClain and Hague last Friday. It was during that mission, NASA said, that McClain discovered that "a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best."

"Only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Frida,y March 29, Koch will wear it," the space agency says. "Anne trained in ‘M’ and ‘L’ and thought she could use a large but decided after [last] Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better" further explained Stephanie Schierholz, a spokeswoman of the space center Johnson, located in Houston.

12 Hours Work For One Suit

The New York Times, quoting a NASA spokeswoman, reported that there are two medium-sized torsos currently on the ISS but "one has yet to be properly configured for a spacewalk. It would take hours of crew labor (not to mention some additional risk) to fix that in time" for Friday’s mission.

Why is this problem only being brought up now? Brandi Dean of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, explained that while NASA does its "best to anticipate the spacesuit size that each astronaut will need … individuals’ sizing needs may change when they are on orbit, in response to the changes living in microgravity can bring about in a body."

"No one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in microgravity, and an individual may find that their sizing preferences change in space," she said.

Konbini with AFP

By Astrid Van Laer, published on 26/03/2019