NASA Is Canceling Its All-Female Spacewalk Due to Ill-Fitting Spacesuits

American astronaut Joseph Tanner on a space walk in 2006
American astronaut Joseph Tanner on a space walk in 2006
NASA/Getty Images

Two astronauts—both women—were slated to make history on March 29 by participating in the first all-female spacewalk. Then their wardrobe got in the way.

According to the BBC, NASA had to cancel the planned event at the International Space Station because of sizing issues related to one of the necessary spacesuits. It was discovered a little too late that both astronauts—Christina Koch and Anne McClain—needed spacesuits with a medium-sized hard upper torso. However, only one of the two medium-sized suits had been configured for a spacewalk. So instead of McClain stepping into outer space to install batteries at the space station, a male colleague, Nick Hague, will take her place alongside Koch.

"Anne trained in 'M' and 'L' and thought she could use a large but decided after [last] Friday's spacewalk a medium fits better," said Stephanie Schierholz, a NASA spokesperson. "In this case, it's easier (and faster!) to change space-walkers than reconfigure the spacesuit."

Part of the problem is that it's hard to find a proper fit before an astronaut has actually been in space. "Individuals' sizing needs may change when they are [in] orbit, in response to the changes living in microgravity can bring about in a body," Brandi Dean, a spokesperson for the Johnson Space Center in Houston, told the AFP.

In this case, McClain only learned she needed a smaller size while doing an actual spacewalk last Friday, making her the 13th woman to achieve this milestone. Koch will become the 14th woman during her planned spacewalk this week.

The news comes just two weeks after the head of NASA made headlines for stating that the first astronaut on Mars would likely be a woman. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine also said a woman would likely be the next person to set foot on the Moon.

[h/t BBC]

NASA's First All-Female Spacewalk is Really Happening This Time

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is suited up in a U.S. spacesuit ahead of her history-making spacewalk.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch is suited up in a U.S. spacesuit ahead of her history-making spacewalk.
NASA

After a surprising cancellation in March, plans for NASA's first all-female spacewalk are back on track. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are scheduled to make history on October 21, 2019.

Earlier this year, NASA canceled the first all-female spacewalk because of an issue with spacesuit sizing. Both astronauts originally scheduled for the walk needed medium-sized suits. At the time, the International Space Station had two—but only one was properly configured for a spacewalk. Preparing the other suit in time would have taken hours of crew labor, The New York Times reported, so NASA decided to switch out the astronauts.

“When you have the option of just switching the people, the mission becomes more important than a cool milestone,” NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz told The New York Times.

Still, the milestone is a significant one. Since 1961, nearly 550 people have been sent to space. Of those, only about 11 percent have been female.

“I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing and in the past, women haven’t always been at the table,” Koch said on NASA TV. “There are a lot of people that derive motivation from inspiring stories from people who look like them, and I think it’s an important aspect of the story to tell.”

The mission itself is fairly routine—Koch and Meir are scheduled to swap out batteries on the station’s solar panels. Live video of the spacewalk (the 222nd spacewalk in history) will be available on NASA’s website.

A Huge Full Hunter’s Moon Will Light Up The Sky This Weekend

Chayanan/iStock via Getty Images
Chayanan/iStock via Getty Images

This weekend’s full moon will likely draw your eye even more than a regular one does.

Newsweek reports that what’s known as the full hunter’s moon—the first full moon after the harvest moon—will rise right around sunset, making it seem both much larger and more orange than usual. Though you’ll likely be able to spot it from Saturday, October 12 through the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 15, the best time to look up is Sunday night, October 13, when the moon reaches peak fullness.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the hunter’s moon may seem so huge because of a simple trick our eyes play on us called the “moon illusion.” Usually, when the moon is high and far from the horizon, it’s the main thing we see in the sky. Because the sky itself is so unfathomably vast, the moon looks pretty small. The hunter’s moon, however, appears lower in the sky, giving us a chance to view it next to things like trees and buildings. Since the moon is so much larger than those objects, our brains may process it with a better sense of scale.

The reason the hunter’s moon often glows orange is also related to its lower position. The moon is actually closer to us when it’s higher in the sky, so the light it reflects has to travel a shorter distance to reach our eyes, leaving the shorter wavelengths of blue light intact. When the moon is low, the air scatters those short blue wavelengths before they get to us, and only the longer, reddish wavelengths make it through.

Though we don’t know for sure why it’s called a hunter’s moon, The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that it may have once indicated the beginning of prime hunting season, when hunters could easily spot animals in fields that harvesters had just cleared after the previous month’s harvest moon.

And, after the hunter’s moon has come and gone, be sure to catch the full beaver moon in November.

[h/t Newsweek]

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