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NASA Cancels Historic Female Spacewalk Because There's Not Enough Spacesuits

A lack of spacesuits forced a much-anticipated NASA milestone to be cancelled.

Two female astronauts, Christina Koch and Anne McClain were scheduled to embark on a historic spacewalk this week, to install powerful lithium-ion batteries for one of the International Space Station's solar arrays.

It would have been the first time in history a NASA spacewalk was all-female, and was due to be broadcast around the globe.

But the international space agency has now pulled the plug on the much-anticipated walk, because both astronauts needed the same medium-sized suit -- but only one would be available.

NASA claims the issue of "spacesuit availability" was only part of the reason the walk was cancelled, but in a press release, it failed to cite what the other reasons were.

According to NASA, McClain -- who undertook her first spacewalk with fellow astronaut Nick Hague last week in the first walk of the series -- had discovered the harder upper torso, or shirt, of the spacesuit best fit her in medium size.

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"Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it," NASA said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

The adjusted assignment will now see McClain scrapped from the second walk and replaced by Hague who will walk with Koch.

According to NASA's website, spacesuits are created by recording the body measurements of each shuttle astronaut and then plotting them against the size ranges available for each component of the suits.

Training suits are assembled nine months before flight, while flight suits are usually assembled four months prior, the website said.

NASA says there are no differences between male and female suits, but women usually require a smaller size.

McClain, who became the 13th woman in the world to perform a spacewalk last week, is now "tentatively scheduled" to take part in the third spacewalk of the series on April 8.

That walk will be done alongside Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques.

The announcement has angered space fans online, with the lack of spacesuits for the female astronauts labelled as "incredibly disappointing" and a "failure".

Image: Getty Images

NASA announced the all-female spacewalk earlier in March to coincide with Women's History Month.

On Tuesday, McClain shared a photo on Twitter of her earlier expedition.

In it, she quoted a line from The Greatest Showman soundtrack: "A million dreams is all it's gonna take".

There is no indication of when or if an all-female spacewalk will be rescheduled in the future.

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au