Problems with sexism persist across American society, and in recent days, some became concerned that it had infected the American space program. NASA announced that they’d cancelled what would have been the first all-female spacewalk that had been set for the end of this week, opting to replace one of the planned astronauts with another because of a lack of immediately available, appropriate attire for both women.
They responded to criticism with an explanation posted to the agency’s Twitter account, asserting that the shift was not because of a lack of appropriate planning for female astronauts but instead just a mishap.
‘We’ve seen your tweets about spacesuit availability for Friday’s spacewalk. To clarify, we have more than 1 medium size spacesuit torso aboard, but to stay on schedule with Space Station upgrades, it’s safer & faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits.’
We’ve seen your tweets about spacesuit availability for Friday’s spacewalk. To clarify, we have more than 1 medium size spacesuit torso aboard, but to stay on schedule with @Space_Station upgrades, it’s safer & faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits. pic.twitter.com/tPisBHaF2p
— NASA (@NASA) March 26, 2019
At least one of the originally planned female astronauts had been set to wear a large-torso spacesuit, but astronaut Anne McClain concluded recently that a medium would fit her better — but there’s only one immediately available, and the other astronaut Christina Koch has the same preference. The second medium aboard the International Space Station is a spare that “would require additional time for configuration,” NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean explained to CNN.
She and fellow NASA public affairs agent Stephanie Schierholz discussed how it’s important for the astronaut to have the most appropriately fitting attire possible and sometimes, that appropriate-ness changes from earth to space. McClain apparently trained with both large and medium-torso suits while on earth before changing her mind in the actual conditions up above.
Despite the clearly explained process getting to the agency’s present point, they attracted rounds of criticism from figures with as high of a profile as Hillary Clinton, who tweeted simply:
‘Make another suit.’
Make another suit. https://t.co/mu9w13xsi0
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 26, 2019
There is a clear issue with the age and concurrent versatility of the suits that NASA do have, despite their insistence on an orderly process. Their current crop is decades-old, and had its heyday during the Space Shuttle program, which is approaching decades in the past. Apparently, there are only 11 suits left from an original batch of 18, and tech journalist Abigail Beall says there are no plans to build any new suits until 2024, when the ISS is slated to phase out.
Around that same time, a plan the Trump administration is pushing is supposed to put American astronauts back on the moon.
This Tuesday during a speech, Vice President Mike Pence insisted:
‘I’m here on the president’s behalf to tell the men and women of the Marshall Space Flight Center and the American people that at the direction of the president of the United States, it is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the moon within the next five years.’
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) March 26, 2019
Pence has served as the chairman of the recently revived National Space Council alongside other ambitious Trump administration plans, like the introduction of a “Space Force.”
With their dismal record on incorporating women’s concerns into other policy areas, it’ll be an open question what place they will get at the table for this under Trump.
Check out Twitter’s response…
Featured Image via screenshot