NASA offers up an excellent explanation for the cancelled all-female spacewalk
NASA cancelled the all-female spacewalk that was expected to take place on March 29 and delivered a thorough and definite answer as to why.
We already know why NASA cancelled the all-female spacewalk on March 29. As it turns out, spare spacesuits aren’t that easy to come by when you’re up in outer space. The rescheduling of the spacewalk was disappointing to many and a lot of questions were put forth from the media as to why the operation was delayed. To combat the bad press, NASA released a detailed explanation as to why the operation had to be rescheduled.
We’ve listed out the 5 reasons as to why the operation was postponed.
- Spacesuits don’t come in a 'one size fits all' arrangement. Astronauts train in spacesuits with different sizes on Earth. One of the reasons why a fixed-size spacesuit is not possible is because the size of the astronaut’s body changes when they are not subject to the forces of gravity while on Earth. Human bodies aren’t built to withstand outer space and with each passing day that astronauts are out there, their bodies change in composition. Muscular atrophy and a reduction of bone density have been observed in astronauts who have spent a decent amount of time aboard the International Space Station.
Earth will learn a lot during his busy week on @Space_Station - today he kept me company while we checked our suit sizing to account for space growth (I am 2 inches taller than when I launched!), then we did some translation adaptation. pic.twitter.com/A89tJauyQu— Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) March 4, 2019
2. Spacesuits aren’t as simple as we make them out to be. They are made up of three different sizes of the upper torso, eight sizes of adjustable elbows, over 65 sizes of gloves, two sizes of adjustable waists, five sizes of adjustable knees and padding options for almost every part of the body. They are marvels of human engineering. Each spacesuit has 80 different measurements that have to be customized for each astronaut. Basically, a spacesuit is "a mini spaceship that keeps astronauts alive while they are spacewalking!"
3. The International Space Station already has two medium hard upper torsos, two large and two extra large spacesuits. But, configuring one extra large and a medium one requires 12 hours of extra crew time, which is too much of a strain as astronauts are already on an incredibly tight schedule and do not have the time to spare.
The assembling of each suit includes the proper implementation of controls, seals, Oxygen hoses, water, power and pressure balances. A leak through any of the components of the spacesuit would spell imminent disaster for the astronaut. It is an incredibly precise and particular procedure.
4. The ISS team didn't want to delay this any further as the Northrop Grumman Cygnus and SpaceX cargo Dragons are scheduled to launch in the second half of April.
5. NASA does not make assignments based on gender. So, the question of the cancellation being a gendered issue is completely out of the question as NASA have gone out of their way to welcome women into STEM and space travel in particular.
"An all-female spacewalk is inevitable! As the percentage of women who have become astronauts increases, we look forward to celebrating the first spacewalk performed by two women!" says NASA.
This decision was based on my recommendation. Leaders must make tough calls, and I am fortunate to work with a team who trusts my judgement. We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated. Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first. https://t.co/VU9QNaHHlK— Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) March 27, 2019
NASA does not deserve the criticism right now because what happened was not a human issue but a mechanical one. And, we’re pretty sure they’re great at fixing whatever problem that pops up. They’re in outer space, after all.
Before you leave, don't forget to catch the live stream of the March 29th spacewalk right here: