NASA is running out of space suits

space suits

The new of the cancellation of the first all female space walk comes from a couple of weeks ago, but the reason is not so recent. It’s been years, now, that we know about the lack of space suits. But how is it possible that the NASA doesn’t have enough space suits?

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One suit for two women

The problem arose in the moment that two women had to go outside in an extravehicular mission from the ISS. We are talking about the astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch. The mission outside the vehicle would last seven hours and it should have been taken the last 29th of March.

Astronaute McClain e Koch - Tute spaziali
No space walk of only women

The astronauts should be supported by a third woman from Earth, Kristen Facciol. A mission that promised to enter in the history, the first one fully pink. However something went wrong and that something is the fact that there aren’t space suits for both women.

This one, infact, shouldn’t be the first time for no one of them, they both went outside already in extravehicular missions on the side of male colleagues, by sharing the same suit. The first mission all female will have to wait.

Meanwhile what they had to do during the seven hours space walk, already postponed two weeks ago, must be done. To go out, it will be only Koch, with the colleague Nick Hague, which body shape fits, if not perfectly, at least enough, to use another space suit.

It isn’t discriminatory

The new which can make stir or not for a hypothetical discrimination, arrives right after the new, given by the NASA chief, NASA, Jim Bridenstine, that the first person to set foot on Mars might be a woman.

Anne McClain - Tute spaziali
The astronaut Anne McClain

By the way, even though the event can look so, it isn’t a gender discrimination. The current space suits are old and overexploited and, of the initial 18 suits, at the moment there are only 11 which are still available, and not all of them are in perfect conditions.

As the years went by, therefore, were made cutbacks and, now that the space activities are increasing, they are trying to recover by realizing new and much more advanced space suits, but we will have to wait few years before it happens.

The question seems so to be only financial and about timing, and not discriminatory. And let’s think that the “discrimination” in the ’60s was about the astronauts too tall. They couldn’t be more than 1.80m tall to enter in the pods of the programm Apollo.

Where did the space suits go?

Let’s go back to the beginning of the space exploration. In the ’60s the space suits were tailor made by the International Latex Corporation. By the way not many years after that this solution became unthinkable. With the advent of the space shuttle age the space became extremely closer and, so, they needed much more suits much more cheaper.

Le tute spaziali sulla ISS
Onboard of the ISS

So arrived the EMU (extravehicular mobility units), sectional space suits. They realized single pieces of arms, legs and bodies, in all the sizes extra small, small, medium, large, extra large.

In the ’90s arrived a new cut to the budget, which involved the production of the space suits. It was so decided to cut the small and the extra small. They arrived to the point to choose the astronauts for their body size.

At the end of all of this there were 18 semirigid suits, heritage of the Space Shuttle’s years, but at the moment there are only 11 of them.

Four were destroyed during the tragedies, in the 1986, of the Challenger and in the 2003, of the Colombia. In the 2015 a fifth went lost, during the explosion of a rocket and the last one during a test phase.

But it isn’t enough, because of the remaing 11 four are under a certification phase and two were realized only for the tests on Earth. To the astronauts, so, remain just five space suits.

We need new space suits

The nowadays astronauts are still wearing the space suit realized 40 years ago, with all the problem that it makes. The lack of suits causes their overexploition and, unless than regularly coming back on Earth, they remain onboard of the ISS up to 5/6 years, with the only maintenance of the astronauts.

Before to be able to use the new space suits we will need years and, maybe, the current ones won’t be enough until that moment.

But there is even another problem. They well known for what the suits realized were for until now, easy extravehicular activities. But now on what they will focus for the realization of the new space suits? For new moon walks, to study the asteroids or to realize a colony on Mars?

This post is also available in: Italiano

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