‘PR disaster’: NASA ditches historic all-female spacewalk after spacesuits won’t fit
Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were about to make history as the first all-female crew to walk outside the International Space Station on March 29, but NASA suddenly changed its plans. In a press release on Monday, the agency said it had to adjust assignments “in part” due to “spacesuit availability” problems.
McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso could be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it.
Anne McClain, who successfully performed her first spacewalk on March 22 with Nick Hague, is now “tentatively scheduled” for April 8 alongside Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, NASA said.
𝘈 𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘪𝘵’𝘴 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦… pic.twitter.com/2fDXJX94wa— Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) March 25, 2019
Many people on social media were perplexed to hear that there’s a shortage of spacesuits on the ISS. One person on Twitter blamed NASA’s ‘poor planning,’ assuming that that sizing issues must have been “100% known” in advance.
This is disappointing, and 100% known when the original mission was announced. Poor planning.— Scott Draeger✈️🌎 (@scottdraeger) March 26, 2019
Many people found it weird that NASA did not prepare enough spacesuit options for the much-touted spacewalk. “Women astronauts need women-sized gear. This is still an issue in 2018?” someone wondered, while another user advised NASA to “get a better tailor.”
Hey NASA—women astronauts need women-sized gear. This is still an issue in 2018?— M (@MLGHWDS) March 26, 2019
Nasa is soo very weird. They made a moon walk in 1969 and cannot get a spacesuit sorted for a women in 2019. #shameGet a better tailor guys.— Majili (@AkhilTwetz) March 26, 2019
You can put a man on the moon but you don't have the right size spacesuits available for the first all-female spacewalk? pic.twitter.com/XSZozksJS2— Jill Tatara (@jilltataraworld) March 26, 2019
Someone even dubbed the incident a “PR disaster,” while another user ironically called NASA’s flunk “one giant step back for women.”
Love you NASA but,without exaggerating, this is a PR disaster. Might as well own it, and take the hit. Good luck with the reorganized spacewalk anyway and with the eventual all female trip.— Wondering (@L72457453) March 26, 2019
One small step for man, one giant step back for women— Sharp Violet (@SharpVioletNY) March 26, 2019
NASA was also criticized for playing with gender issues instead of focusing on science. “Why is it so important to have an all-female spacewalk? Shouldn’t it be the most qualified humans?” one tweet read.
Why is it so important to have an all female spacewalk ? Shouldn’t it be the most qualified humans ? Is this a political move ? Is CNN involved ? Rosie ?— Tom Callahan (@TomCall05418834) March 26, 2019
God even nasa is consumed with gender politics. Why don’t we just send the best astronauts. If they’re all men or all women who cares. Focus on science. If you guys corrupt NASA I have no faith in this world— Learning2c0de (@learning2c0de) March 25, 2019
McClain has been on the ISS since December 2018, while Koch joined in March 2019. Both astronauts are part of the Expedition 59 commanded by Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin.
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