Nasa astronaut Christina Hammock Koch. Nasa scrapped a planned historic spacewalk by two female astronauts, of which Koch was one, citing a lack of available spacesuits that would fit them at the International Space Station. Picture: AFP/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV
Nasa astronaut Christina Hammock Koch. Nasa scrapped a planned historic spacewalk by two female astronauts, of which Koch was one, citing a lack of available spacesuits that would fit them at the International Space Station. Picture: AFP/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV

Washington — On Monday, the US space agency Nasa scrapped  a planned historic spacewalk by two female astronauts, citing a lack of available spacesuits that would fit them at the International Space Station (ISS).

Christina Koch will now perform tasks in space on Friday with fellow American Nick Hague — instead of Anne McClain as originally planned. Had Koch and McClain done their spacewalk together, it would have been the first ever by two female astronauts.

Until now, male-only or mixed male-female teams have conducted spacewalks since the space station was assembled in 1998 — that’s 214 spacewalks.

McClain worked outside the ISS last week — with Hague — when she realised that a “medium-sized upper half of her spacesuit fit” her better.

“Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it,” Nasa explained.

The spacesuits aboard the ISS are, in fact, assemblies of several parts put together for each astronaut’s body, explained Brandi Dean, spokesperson of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where American astronauts are based.

She said two upper parts in each of the three available spacesuit sizes are currently held at the ISS: medium, large and extra large.

“We do our best to anticipate the spacesuit sizes that each astronaut will need, based on the spacesuit size they wear in training on the ground, and in some cases astronauts train in multiple sizes,” she said in explaining the problem that hampered Friday’s planned spacewalk.

“However, individuals’ sizing needs may change when they are on orbit, in response to the changes living in micro-gravity can bring about in a body.

“In addition, no one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in micro-gravity, and an individual may find that their sizing preferences change in space.”

AFP