NASA cancels first all-female spacewalk over a spacesuit sizing issue

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Both McClain and Koch were members of Nasa's 2013 astronaut class, 50 per cent of which was made up of women, Nasa said.

"Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk", NASA said in a statement on Monday.

Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch had planned to conclude Women's History Month with a spacewalk Friday to continue work outside the space station.

During a spacewalk with astronaut Nick Hague on March 22, McClain determined that she fit better in a medium-sized space suit instead of the larger one she used while training.

There were no signs in the earlier spacewalk by McClain that the larger suit was a problem. "While she was working, she realized that her suit was too big to maneuver in comfortably".

Yet some users were supportive, citing the importance of safety. They were later seen in NASA's Advanced Crew Escape Suit during the launch. "Or, do we take that money, and turn it towards the suit development for the next generation?" Then the measurements are plotted against the size ranges available for each spacesuit component, according to NASA.

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"In a briefing at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston this month, Ms. Lawrence, Ms. Kagey and Kenneth Todd, the station's operations integration manager, said officials had not immediately recognized the significance of the original lineup for Friday's 'extravehicular activity, ' or EVA", reports the Times.

In an interview with the New York Times, NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz explained a similar rationale.

"The element that came into play here is the hard upper torso", she wrote. However, one of the mediums and one of the extra larges are spares that would require additional time to be configured for a spacewalk. For reference, making the additional medium-sized suit needed for the two women to participate would take about 12 hours of labor, as reported by Ars Technica.

"In this case, it's easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit", Schierholz said.

The plan is for the pair to lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and the S0 truss, at the midpoint of the station's backbone, during their April 8 spacewalk. This includes a Russian Progress, Northrop Grumman Cygnus and SpaceX Dragon that will bring the crew supplies for "various science investigations".

The spacewalk scheduled for this Friday would have been a triumph.