Does NASA take gender inclusion seriously? | The Tylt

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Does NASA take gender inclusion seriously?
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#NASACanDoBetter
#NASAIsInclusive

NASA faced harsh criticism in spring 2019 after it changed plans for what would have been the International Space Station's first all-female spacewalk. The reason for the change came down to equipment; NASA astronaut Anne McClain needed a smaller spacesuit in order to successfully and safely complete the walk. Critics argue a wardrobe issue is proof that NASA still has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality. Others point out the change is nothing more than a safety precaution. What do you think?

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NASA already made history in 2013 when it chose an astronaut class of evenly-split male and female candidates (four men and four women). Radio station 91.5 KJZZ 's Laurel Morales reports: 

These four women, one black man and three white men got the job out of more than 6,000 applicants, the second-largest pool of applications NASA has ever received.

Morales adds that out of the 534 people lucky enough to visit space as part of the U.S. space program, only 57 have been women and only 14 have been African-American. Clearly, NASA has quite a history of bias to rectify, and its 2013 astronaut class is proof that the organization is taking steps in the right direction.

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But in March 2019, plans for the first all-female spacewalk changed due to an equipment issue. NASA astronaut Anne McClain needed a smaller spacesuit in order to successfully and safely complete the walk with fellow astronaut Christina Koch. NPR's Matthew S. Schwartz reports:

The availability of enough spacesuit sizes has long been a bit of a sensitive subject for NASA. As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reported in 2006, opportunities for women may have been hampered by the fact that spacesuits only came in medium, large and extra-large sizes. They used to come in small, but that size was cut in the 1990s when NASA had to redesign the suits because of a technical glitch.

According to Schwartz, NASA looked into the spacesuit-sizing issue in 2003 and found that roughly a third of its female astronauts could not fit into existing suits. It should be noted that spacesuits are extremely expensive and tedious to produce, but this kind of gap in equipment furthers the assumption that astronauts should be of a certain size–a size profile characteristic of men.

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Some people at NASA feel that despite the optics, NASA is doing everything it can to put the most qualified people in space. According to some, it isn't about inclusivity, it's about logistics. NPR reports:

But Lara Kearney, who worked on the small suit, said it's not about gender, but rather about logistics and cost-effectiveness. "Do we spend around $15 million to accommodate, relatively speaking, a few more people than we could today? Or, do we take that money and turn it towards the suit development for the next generation?"

Furthermore, NASA had no plans for the spacewalk of all-female astronauts to be anything more than a regular spacewalk. According to representatives at NASA, there was no sense of history or breaking barriers attached to the mission; it was simply luck of the draw. The only reason the plans changed was that McClain herself realized her existing spacesuit was too big on a previous walk.

In this sense, NASA treated each of the astronauts on the ISS equally and will continue to do so. Isn't this what we all want? 

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Nevertheless, the public is more than disappointed that this moment in history will have to wait because of wardrobe. NBC News reports: 

The all-female spacewalk was supposed to feature McClain and Koch in space, aided on the ground by flight directors Mary Lawrence and Kristen Facciol at NASA's Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

For some, the irony of the situation is just too much.

FINAL RESULTS
Does NASA take gender inclusion seriously?
A festive crown for the winner
#NASACanDoBetter
#NASAIsInclusive
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