Astronaut Anne McClain is defending NASA's decision to scrap the first all-female spacewalk over a lack of appropriately sized spacesuits.
"That was my recommendation," McClain told ABC News during a live, televised interview from the International Space Station on Monday (April 1), three days after she sat out of what would have been her second spacewalk — and a historic moment for women in space — on Friday (March 29).
McClain took her first spacewalk on March 22 in a spacesuit with a size-medium hard upper torso (HUT), and she planned to wear a size-large HUT during her second spacewalk together with NASA astronaut Christina Koch. She had trained wearing spacesuits in both sizes, so she thought she could wear either size. However, just a few days before that second spacewalk McClain informed NASA that she did not feel comfortable wearing the larger size after all. The crew had prepared only one medium suit and one large suit for the series of spacewalks happening this spring, but both women needed to wear the medium. So, NASA astronaut Nick Hague took McClain's place and wore the larger suit during Friday's spacewalk — much to the dismay of feminists across the internet.
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"Nick and I went out the door [March 22] and did a spacewalk, and at the time the suit that I was wearing, it fit perfectly," McClain said in the interview. "I was very happy in it, and Nick was happy in the suit he was wearing. We didn't want to make any changes."
Unfortunately, wearing that same spacesuit for her next spacewalk simply wasn't an option. "I was planning on changing sizes on the second suit, and because everything went so well on the first one, we realized ... we don't need to inject any additional unknowns into something that is as important and as dangerous as a spacewalk," McClain explained.
"It's very important that all of us are able to work as efficiently and safely as possible, and so Nick and I swapped," McClain said. While Hague took over McClain's role on the last spacewalk, McClain is now taking over for Hague on the next spacewalk, scheduled for April 8, when she'll be working together with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques.
McClain said Hague and Koch "did an amazing job" with last Friday's spacewalk and that "they were absolutely the right team for the job."
"I'll be looking forward to going out the hatch again next week," McClain said.
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Email Hanneke Weitering at email@example.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.