Earlier this month NASA announced that the first all-female spacewalk in history was scheduled to take place on March 29th. An update from NASA now confirms that the historical spacewalk has now been amended, and astronaut Christina Koch has been replaced with her male colleague, Nick Hague, due to a lack of appropriate spacesuits.
In a statement about the original spacewalk, emailed to CNN, NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said "As currently scheduled, the March 29 spacewalk will be the first with only women.” She went on to say "And, of course, assignments and schedules could always change."
It appears that the latter part has now come to pass, and the all-female spacewalk is no longer happening. While to the best of our knowledge the rest of the female team are still in place, Anne McClain has been replaced with her male colleague Nick Hague, due to a lack of correctly sized spacesuits.
The issue is said to have arisen when McClain went on her first spacewalk last week. Despite training in both medium and large sized suits, McClain found once she was in space, that the medium sized suit was much better suited to her. The problem is that Koch also needs a medium sized spacesuit, and there is currently only one available for this purpose.
The part of the suit affected is the hard upper torso, sometimes referred to as the “shirt.” According to NASA’s Twitter account, the ISS does have two medium-size torso sections on board, but only one of them is properly configured for a spacewalk. To get the other ready is a long job, so NASA decided it would be easier to change out the astronauts instead, allowing Koch to wear the same suit McClain wore last week.
A statement from NASA further explains "Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk. However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station."
The spacewalk is part of routine maintenance on board the ISS; to replace the 48 batteries on the station with new ones, which are expected to last for the remainder of the station’s life.
Last week McClain became the 13th woman to perform a spacewalk, and Koch will become the 14th later this week.