After announcing a historic first all-female space walk, NASA is now saying that it is swapping one of the women’s spots for a male astronaut, because there were not space suits available to fit both women.
Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were scheduled for a mission on Friday to install lithium-ion batteries on the International Space Station’s solar panel, but McClain’s spot is now being given to Nick Hague after McClain discovered that she needed a different size in her space suit.
“After consulting with McClain and Hague following the first space walk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to space suit availability on the station,” NASA said in a press release.
“McClain learned during her first space walk that a medium-size hard upper torso — essentially the shirt of the spacesuit — fits her best,” the press release reads. “Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it.”
NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz told NBC News that there are two medium-sized hard upper torso parts of the suit available, but one of them is a spare that would need additional work to be configured for use.
In the past, space walks have been performed mostly by all-male or male-female teams, and an all-female space walk seems long overdue. But as some have pointed out, safety comes first, and it’s important that McClain is able to perform the mission in the right equipment. Still, it’d have been ideal if more suits were readily available to fit female astronauts in the first place.
McClain is now “tentatively scheduled” to perform her next space walk on April 8, alongside a male colleague.