To celebrate Women’s History Month NASA came up with a nifty plan – the first all-dame spacewalk outside the International Space Station.
It would be a history making moment for this coming Friday, celebrating the growing number of not-dudes in the planet’s best known space organisation.
Anne McLain and Christina Koch – who are busily orbiting us even as you read this – would leave the capsule and float meaningfully in our uppermost atmosphere because… look, now isn’t the time to go into why the ISS isn’t technically in space, the point is that it was going to be a moment beautifully illustrating how far we have come in addressing STEM-related gender inequality.
And now it’s not happening for a reason that absolutely sums up the sort of blind spots and structural sexism which women face: they only have one lady-sized space suit up there.
Yes, it turns out that no-one thought to ensure that there were adequate “medium” torso shields because, as ever, the default assumption is bloke.
Also, just to be clear: the spacewalk wasn’t purely sympbolic: they’d be installing lithium-ion batteries for the space station’s solar arrays. And Koch will still be doing that on Friday, only accompanied by one of her more wang-possessing colleagues rather than McClain.
And it’s embarrassing, sure, but the space-lookin’ biz has a rich history of not being entirely across what these weird non-men are.
Back in the sixties the few female astronomers working in the US were blanket denied access to the Palomar telescope on the grounds that there was only one toilet on site, which men used, and that women couldn’t possibly use the same one. It wasn’t until future discoverer of dark matter Vera Rubin made, ahem, a stink about it that they flushed the policy.
And who could forget the well-meaning NASA tech who politely asked Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space, if 100 tampons would be enough for her seven day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.
Anyway, we have every confidence that one day NASA will sort out its unconscious sexism and finally be able to boldly go where no man has gonGODDAMMIT IT’S EVEN MORE ENTRENCHED THAN WE THOUGHT.