Assignment shuffle precludes all-female spacewalk

Enlarge ImageNASA astronauts Christina Koch Anne Mc Clain and Nick Hague make up half the current ISS crew.                  NASA

The history-making excursion was set to happen Friday as astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain were scheduled to swap out the 3,000-pound batteries on the outside of the International Space Station.

During these spacewalks (also called extravehicular activities or "EVAs"), astronauts will be upgrading the station's power system, replacing nickel-hydrogen batteries with new, more powerful lithium-ion batteries to power the station - tasks projected to take six to seven hours to complete.

Ms Koch will now conduct Friday's spacewalk with her male colleague Nick Hague, the space agency says.

NASA said in a statement: "Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk".

"We've seen your comments about the spacesuit availability for Friday's spacewalk", the agency said in a Facebook post. All of them have been carried out by male-only or mixed male-female teams.

However, NASA said that McClain would no longer be able to partake in the spacewalk after she realized after a previous spacewalk that large-sized outerwear didn't fit her as well as medium - and only one medium-sized outer shirt can be arranged by March 29.

She will wear the medium-size suit used by McClain on a spacewalk with Hague last week.

She wore a medium when she went out on her first spacewalk last Friday and was supposed to switch to a large this week.

After receiving plenty of backlash on social media, for what seemed like a fairly obvious thing they should have considered - have more medium spacesuits on the station for women astronauts to use - NASA clarified via Twitter that there is more than one medium-sized spacesuit on board the station.

"Two mediums existed on the ISS, but only one was prepped for a spacewalk", the report continued.

The next spacewalk is tentatively scheduled for April 8 - although at this time it is also expected to be mix-gendered. Five years later, Sally Ride launched with the seventh Space Shuttle mission, becoming the US's first woman in space.

Koch is a native of MI and graduated from N.C. State University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Physics and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering, says NASA.

While the 2013 astronaut class (to which McClain and Hague both belong) was half women, some are now criticizing the agency for not keep enough working suits in women's sizes. Still, the likelihood of an all-female spacewalk will continue to increase as more and more women become astronauts and participate in spacewalks.

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