Even though many strides have been made, the reality is, gender inequality is still very much a big deal. Mainly because it seems that progress is slower in some fields. Science and math being one of them. Since the Space Race began over 50 years ago, women have been largely absent. Yes, there are women who have been and are currently involved, but not nearly enough. This week was supposed to be the first space walk with two women, and now it has been cancelled. Why? Because of an ill fitting spacesuit. It's 2019, this is super disappointing.
In what was to be the second spacewalk at the International Space Station, NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were going to be the first two women to complete a spacewalk together. Usually, the pairs are either two men, or a man and a woman. This two woman spacewalk would be history in the making. But again, it's 2019, how has this never happened before?
After the first spacewalk of the series, which was performed by Anne McClain and Nick Hauge, McClain feels that the spacesuit she was wearing is ill fitting. The upper torso portion of the suit, which is basically like the shirt wasn't quite as snug as she needs. She would prefer to wear a medium, and unfortunately only one will be made available in time for the spacewalk. Yes, it's weird that only one size medium exists, but you just have to accept it.
According to the CBC, less than 11 percent of the 500 plus people who have traveled to space in the history of the space program have been women. Due to purely logistical reasons, women always go on these spacewalks with men. Pretty much because there is an overabundance of men.
"Spacewalks are a challenge, but the right equipment makes the job easier! Spacesuits are the most important gear," read the Twitter announcement of the change.
Spacewalks are a challenge, but the right equipment makes the job easier! Spacesuits are the most important gear. To get the best fit, we've updated the assignments for our March 29 and April 8 spacewalks outside the @Space_Station. Get more details: https://t.co/AoXmgVqKkJ pic.twitter.com/xrCKdMgFXr— NASA (@NASA) March 25, 2019
Naturally, the backlash (which isn't really even backlash) was swift. What was to be a truly monumental occasion was ruined by something that just seems like poor planning. It honestly doesn't make sense that there will only be one available spacesuit in a certain size at any given time. Because how do they deal with situations like this one that will pop up? NASA addressed the problem quickly.
We’ve seen your tweets about spacesuit availability for Friday’s spacewalk. To clarify, we have more than 1 medium size spacesuit torso aboard, but to stay on schedule with @Space_Station upgrades, it’s safer & faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits. pic.twitter.com/tPisBHaF2p— NASA (@NASA) March 26, 2019
Ultimately, this is a safety decision. It is insanely disappointing that this has to affect the first all woman spacewalk, but keeping everyone safe has to be their first priority. Hopefully the response from the public will force NASA to make sure that next time the right equipment will be available. As of right now, Anne McClain will go for the final spacewalk in early April.
Women will spacewalk together soon. It's way too overdue.