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Female Astronaut Cancels Spacewalk Due to Problematic Spacesuit

astronaut
Thanks to an ill-fitting spacesuit, NASA cancels its first ever all-female spacewalk. How is this even a problem in 2019?
anne mcclain

Every morning, I read the news headlines to get a handle on what’s going on in the world. Today, I read an article about how NASA was planning an all-women space walk, but due to a “wardrobe” malfunction one of the women wasn’t going to be able to participate. No, I’m not talking about a Janet Jackson style wardrobe malfunction, but it is certainly on the same level. Let me explain the situation before providing some narrative.

According to NASA, last week astronaut Anne McClain, had an issue with the fit of her spacesuit. In what is essentially the “t-shirt” area of the Enhanced EMU suit that astronauts wear on spacewalks, the Hard Upper Torso (HUT) comes in three sizes – Medium, Large and XL. In McClain’s case, she trained in both the medium and large sized suits, but found that the medium size worked better for her. But here’s where it gets interesting (or at least I think so), there were two medium-sized units on board, which means McClain isn’t able to go on the space walk.

Why do I think this is interesting? I am keenly aware of the size of my body and this can increase my level of anxiety and give me insecurities. There are days I will try on a specific size and it fits great, but the next day, and from another store, I try on the same size and its like I’m wearing children’s clothes. Sure, this isn’t exactly what McClain is experiencing, but the fact that there were two different medium sizes is exactly what happens for many of us. This doesn’t seem to happen to men either. A size 32 pant is always going to be a size 32 pant. But a size 10 dress, for a woman, could be anywhere from a size 8 to a 16. So no, I’m not surprised that McClain wasn’t able to fit into this particular space suit.

I also thought that maybe NASA would have better technology and be able to make things more “customizable” than the dresses that I am buying at Marshalls. But that’s not the case at all. In fact, the suits are modular and able to adjust between many different fits for whoever will be wearing them. They describe them as being set up as an “optimal size” for the astronaut. But, how is that even possible? And as I just explained to you, this will be really difficult for women as we regularly have a hard time finding clothes that fit appropriately.

In this case, they said they had the equipment to be able to reconfigure the spacesuits, but decided not to adjust the various parts of the suit around the torso. Which leads me to believe that it isn’t quite that easy. Or maybe there is something else wrong? Regardless, though, I think that this is completely unacceptable especially since it’s NASA. Sure, I can learn to live with the fact that none of the dresses that I own will be the same size, but surely better technology exists to make a more adaptable spacesuit. I mean, we can put people into space, but we can’t dress them?

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