NASA accused of sexism after it cancels first all-women space walk
NASA says it’s easier to change spacewalkers than adjust a spacesuit
UPDATE: This story was originally published on March 26. On March 27, astronaut Anne McClain tweeted that the decision to cancel the all-female spacewalk was based on her recommendation. "Leaders must make tough calls," she tweeted, "and I am fortunate to work with a team who trusts my judgement." McClain said safety must come first.
When asked whether girls can be astronauts, U.S. astronaut Anne McClain tweeted that while there are many obstacles on the journey to space, your gender isn’t one of them.
Now some people are questioning those words, after NASA announced on Wednesday that it was cancelling the first all-female spacewalk in history, because the right equipment wasn’t available.
Two female astronauts from the U.S. — McClain and Christina Koch — were supposed to put on their spacesuits and do some work outside of the International Space Station on March 29.
But following her first spacewalk on March 22, McClain realized she needed a spacesuit with a medium-sized torso — or shirt — instead of a large one.
Koch also needs a medium-sized suit and NASA says there’s only one available that day.
This means Koch will have to do the spacewalk with a male astronaut instead.
U.S. astronaut Anne McClain got to do her first spacewalk outside the International Space Station on March 25, 2019. (NASA/Reuters)
McClain will still get to do another spacewalk on April 8, NASA said, but she’ll also be joined by a male astronaut.
Some people, including former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, were not impressed that NASA couldn’t make the first all-female spacewalk happen.
When asked to react to the news, Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut, said this “should be a wake-up call.”
She said not having enough spacesuits available to fit women was a problem years ago, “and obviously nothing has changed.”
McClain didn’t respond to the controversy on social media.
But when asked in February for advice on what it takes to succeed as a female astronaut, she was encouraging:
NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz said on Twitter that McClain had trained in both medium and large spacesuits.
She thought she could use a large one, but changed her mind after her first real spacewalk.
"In this case, it's easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit,” Schierholz said.
With files from Thomson Reuters