NASA scraps all-women spacewalk for lack of well-fitting suits

In this file photo taken on March 14, 2019 NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch and Nick Hague, members of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 59/60, react shortly before the launch onboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019

NASA scraps all-women spacewalk for lack of well-fitting suits

  • The spacesuits aboard the ISS are in fact assemblies of several parts put together as best adapted to each astronaut’s body, explained Brandi Dean, spokeswoman of the Johnson Space Center in Houston

WASHINGTON: The US space agency NASA scrapped Monday a planned historic spacewalk by two women astronauts, citing a lack of available spacesuits that would fit them at the International Space Station.
Christina Koch will now perform tasks in space Friday with fellow American Nick Hague — instead of Anne McClain as originally planned.
Had Koch and McClain done their spacewalk together, it would have been the first ever by two women astronauts.
Until now, male-only or mixed male-female teams had conducted spacewalk since the space station was assembled in 1998 — 214 spacewalks until now.
McClain worked outside the station last week — with Hague — when she realized that a “medium“-sized upper half of her spacesuit fit her better.
“Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it,” NASA explained.
The spacesuits aboard the ISS are in fact assemblies of several parts put together as best adapted to each astronaut’s body, explained Brandi Dean, spokeswoman of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where American astronauts are based.
She said two upper parts in each of the three available spacesuit sizes are currently held at the ISS: medium, large and extra large.
“We do our best to anticipate the spacesuit sizes that each astronaut will need, based on the spacesuit size they wore in training on the ground, and in some cases astronauts train in multiple sizes,” she said in explaining the problem that hampered Friday’s planned spacewalk.
“However, individuals’ sizing needs may change when they are on orbit, in response to the changes living in microgravity can bring about in a body.
“In addition, no one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in microgravity, and an individual may find that their sizing preferences change in space.”


Japan spacecraft starts yearlong journey home from asteroid

Updated 10 min 56 sec ago

Japan spacecraft starts yearlong journey home from asteroid

  • The spacecraft will travel 180 million miles on its journey back to Earth
  • It will bring back soil samples that provide clues to life in space

TOKYO: Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft departed from a distant asteroid on Wednesday, starting its yearlong journey home after successfully completing its mission to bring back soil samples and data that could provide clues to the origins of the solar system, the country’s space agency said.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the spacecraft left its orbit around the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth.
Hayabusa2 on Wednesday captured and transmitted to Earth one of its final images of Ryugu, or “Dragon Palace,” named after a sea-bottom castle in a Japanese folk tale, as it slowly began moving away from its temporary home, JAXA said. Hayabusa2 will continue its “farewell filming” of the asteroid for a few more days.
Then Hayabusa2 will adjust its position on around Nov. 18 after retreating 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the asteroid and out of its the gravitational pull. It will then receive a signal from JAXA to ignite a main engine in early December en route to the Earth’s vicinity.
Hayabusa2 made touchdowns on the asteroid twice, despite difficulties caused by Ryugu’s extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples during its 1½-year mission since arriving there in June 2018.
In the first touchdown in February, it collected surface dust samples. In July, it collected underground samples for the first time in space history after landing in a crater it had earlier created by blasting the asteroid surface.
Hayabusa2 is expected to return to Earth in late 2020 and drop a capsule containing the precious samples in the Australian desert.
It took the spacecraft 3½ years to arrive at the asteroid, but the journey home is much shorter thanks to the current locations of Ryugu and Earth.
JAXA scientists believe the underground samples contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors that could tell more about the origin of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and may help explain how Earth evolved. Hayabusa2 scientists also said they believe the samples contain carbon and organic matter and hope they could explain how they are related to Earth.