The International Space Station has been bustling with a full crew ever since Expedition 59-60 first arrived at the Earth-orbiting space lab just under two weeks ago. The additional helping hands that are now present on the International Space Station have opened an opportunity for NASA to conduct a number of spacewalks before three of those crew members head back home.
Image Credit: NASA
NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Nick Hague performed one of those spacewalks last Friday, but the American space agency had special plans for a second spacewalk that’s expected to transpire this coming Friday, March 29th. More specifically, it was set to become the first all-female spacewalk procedure in history, involving both Anne McClain and the new arrival Christine Koch.
While it would have been an exciting precedent, to say the least, it now seems that those plans have changed. Both McClain and Koch would have required medium-size space suits to perform the spacewalk, but the International Space Station only has one medium-size space suit to spare. Consequently, NASA is now being compelled to substitute one of the women with a male astronaut that will fit better into one of the available large-size space suits.
Ideal space suit fitment is vital due to the high-risk nature of spacewalk missions. That said, NASA will not attempt to stuff a smaller person into a larger space suit as it would pose serious ethical and safety concerns.
Being that McClain already performed in the most recent spacewalk, NASA has chosen Koch to move forward with the one scheduled for this coming Friday. McClain’s male replacement will be Nick Hague, who was involved in last week’s spacewalk. Together, Hague and Koch will work together to replace batteries on the outside of the International Space Station.
Moreover, a third spacewalk mission is now poised to take place on Monday, April 8th, and will be performed by McClain and the Canadian Space Agency’s David-Saint Jacques.
The two will purportedly work together to lay jumper cables between the International Space Station’s Unity module and the S0 truss such that the Canadarm2 robotic arm will have a redundant power path – this is considered preventative maintenance and will ensure that the arm still functions should one of those paths fail for any reason. They’ll also beef up the space lab’s wireless communications and improve onboard computer networking by laying a plethora of new cables.
While it is indeed unfortunate to witness the original all-female spacewalk plans crumble to the ground, that’s not to say that this Friday’s spacewalk won’t be significant. NASA says that Koch will become the 14th woman in history to be involved in an International Space Station spacewalk, which is quite the impressive detail to have present in any resume.
NASA will live-stream both spacewalks via NASA TV. You can tune in at NASA’s website or via the space agency’s YouTube channel.