Failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is none too pleased with NASA canceling the historic all-female spacewalk for lack of a medium-sized spacesuit and proposed a completely non-sensical solution to the problem.
"Make another suit," she said on Twitter earlier this week.
Except that would not be possible, given that the astronauts originally slated to perform the spacewalk are now floating above the Earth on the International Space Station. It's not as if NASA can just send up a whole shuttle specifically to supply a medium-sized spacesuit. Not only that, the cancelation happened because astronaut Anne McClain discovered during her first spacewalk that she could not maneuver properly in the torso of the large-sized spacesuit. As NPR reported at the time, the crew onboard the ISS would not be able to prepare an adequate suit in time.
"While she was working, she realized that her suit was too big to maneuver in comfortably. Instead of the large, she would need a medium-sized hard upper torso — what NASA calls 'the shirt of the spacesuit,'" reported NPR. "Two mediums existed on the ISS, but only one was prepped for a spacewalk. Instead of devoting extensive crew time to make the extra medium-sized suit space-worthy by Friday, NASA decided to restaff: Nick Hague will go in McClain's place and do the walk with Christina Koch."
So, rather than delay the mission, which could jeopardize the functionality of the ISS, NASA made the call to go forward as scheduled with a male astronaut in place. NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said as much to The New York Times when addressing the alleged controversy. "When you have the option of just switching the people, the mission becomes more important than a cool milestone," she said.
Furthermore, Schierholz emphasized that an all-female spacewalk is all-but-guaranteed in the near future given NASA's growing diversity. "We’re sort of getting to the point of inevitability," she told the Times.
Despite the highly-practical reason for NASA canceling the historic spacewalk, the backlash from feminists and Twitter trolls was apparently strong enough that the organization had to issue a clarification.
"We’ve seen your tweets about spacesuit availability for Friday’s spacewalk," said NASA in a tweet on Tuesday. "To clarify, we have more than 1 medium size spacesuit torso aboard, but to stay on schedule with @Space_Station upgrades, it’s safer & faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits."
And yet, that still didn't wash over with some feminists, who complained that NASA's lack of preparation was a symptom of ... (Hint: It starts with a P).
"Yeah that’s about the same things that men have been saying to women for centuries," one user said. "You did not do your due diligence to ensure this could happen bc... women are still afterthoughts. Next up, women 'less likely” to be the 1st to head to Mars bc...'"
"If there were a smaller man, the suits would have been made available and in good working condition to allow the man to do his job without interruption," said another user.
"OK, but are you going to rectify this issue in the future? Because this feels like something y'all should have figured out PRIOR to even announcing there would be an all-female walk. Who dropped the ball?" said another feminist.
Others cited anecdotal evidence to illustrate the insidiousness of this patriarchal drive to deny women medium-sized spacesuits on the eve of a historic spacewalk. "My petite niece was accepted into Elite University Engineering School," one person said. "At orientation they gave out nice t-shirts with a cool logo. Men's L and XL only. And there it starts, right at orientation: 'You're not really one of us, little STEM girl' Shame on you."