The First All-Female Spacewalk Won’t Be All-Female Anymore—But Here’s Why That’s Okay

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What would have been an historic moment for women with NASA’s first all-female spacewalk has turned into just another spacewalk—with both men and women involved—all thanks to a spacesuit that doesn’t fit. But it’s not all bad news, as you’ll see.

NASA has just announced the history-making all-female spacewalk originally scheduled to take place later this week has been canceled. Instead of astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain, the two-person team will now consist of Koch and male astronaut, Nick Hague. The reason for the last minute change? There is only one spacesuit aboard the International Space Station in a size medium. Yes, you read that right.

Forget Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, in the saga of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Space Suit only one of the women can make the walk because there are no other spacesuits on board the International Space Station to fit them. No great change comes about without some growing pains and as more women head to space, clearly NASA needs to update its wardrobe to accommodate astronauts of all sizes.

While it seems like there’s nothing positive to this story, the truth is the call to nix the all-female spacewalk was ultimately up to the astronaut—and that’s a good thing. McClain decided she was not comfortable wearing the spacesuit for which she had initially been fitted—and there just wasn’t another suit available in the best size for her body. “

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 can be made ready by Friday, Mar. 29, Koch will wear it,” NASA said in a statement.

We have to remember: the mission to get more women into space and into roles that have been traditionally male-dominated isn’t necessarily a sprint, but more of a marathon. According to a recent report on diversity in space exploration, women made up only 8 percent of active astronauts in the 1970s. That number has increased steadily over the decades, with females now making up 32 percent of all astronauts in the world.

So yes, we will see that historic all-female spacewalk—just not this week. Hopefully as our kids grow up, all-women space teams won’t be big headlines either—because they’ll simply be the norm.

In the meantime, we applaud McClain for trusting her gut and refusing to do something that doesn’t feel right for her body and safety—and that’s a lesson all women and girls can take away.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: WikiImages via Pixabay



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