March 26th 2019… a day that was supposed to go down in history, a day where something extraordinary was about to take place. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain were prepared to embark on a life-changing mission, something never seen throughout all of space exploration history: the first ever all-female space walk.
To much of the public’s dismay, it was cancelled, and controversy arose.
The only reason that NASA has provided as to why the mission was cancelled is the unavailability of space suits. Only one medium-sized chest plate was available for the space walk, but both women needed one. Instead of delaying the mission in order to make another suit, they decided to outright cancel it. Astronaut Nick Hague joined her instead, going with what NASA said was a safer and faster plan than going through with the original goal.
Here in Madison, we are pretty big on space – after all, we are the sister city to Rocket City (Huntsville), Alabama. The whole ordeal seems trivial, and to put it simply, dumb. It fails to explain why NASA, who had announced the first female spacewalk, did not take proper steps in ensuring that the mission would in fact happen; specifically, having the necessary materials, like the proper space suit, ready.
“In space, we have two medium hard upper torsos, two larges and two extra larges; however, one of the mediums and one of the extra larges are spares that would require 12 hours of crew time for configuration,” stated NASA’s article addressing the ordeal.
12 hours of crew time is a long time, but you would think it would be worth it to make sure that both of the astronauts can safely go into space.
Anne McClain tweeted: “This decision was based on my recommendation. Leaders must make tough calls, and I am fortunate to work with a team who trusts my judgement. We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated. Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first.”
Despite McClain’s words on the issue, there are still plenty of people who take issue with the unavailability of prepared space suits.
Arianna Huffington tweeted, “We put a man on the moon, but we can’t find a space suit that fits a woman by Friday.”
Junior Anaya Chambers said, “You would expect an issue with clothing sizes in a place like Walmart, not NASA.”
Senior Chenoa Gentle commented, “I think it’s quite stupid that NASA, a company who has been making space suits for years now, did not have the right sizes to send two women up to the ISS.”
Companies make mistakes all the time. When the mistake is out of the public’s eye, the issues go unnoticed, but NASA can’t count on that here. This mistake was detrimental, not only for these astronauts, but for women everywhere. Hopefully NASA can promise and deliver in the future. and will take the appropriate steps in ensuring the “First Female Spacewalk Ever” doesn’t turn into the “First Female Spacewalk Never.”