In 1984, astronaut Bruce McCandless became the first man to float freely in space without the use of a tether. His pioneering spacewalk was a remarkable feat of engineering and ingenuity that pushed the boundaries of space exploration and marked a major milestone for the United States space program.
McCandless was part of the Space Shuttle Challenger crew and his mission was to test out a new device called the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). The MMU was a nitrogen-propelled jetpack that allowed astronauts to jet around in space with greater freedom and agility than ever before. To test it out, McCandless had to leave the safety of the spacecraft and float freely in the vacuum of space.
For the momentous spacewalk, McCandless was outfitted with a bulky backpack that housed the MMU and a life-support system. He wore a bright orange spacesuit with a large round helmet to protect him from the harsh environment of space. After exiting the shuttle, McCandless slowly and carefully maneuvered himself away from the spacecraft using the MMU. He described the experience as “a tremendous feeling of freedom” as he slowly floated away.
McCandless was able to test out the MMU by flying around in all directions and taking photos of the shuttle and Earth’s horizon. He also performed some of the first untethered maintenance work on the shuttle, which was a huge accomplishment. After nearly six hours of free-floating in space, McCandless returned to the Challenger and was welcomed back with a hero’s welcome from his crewmates.
McCandless’s spacewalk was a great success and marked a major milestone for the United States space program. It was a testament to human ingenuity and bravery and demonstrated the potential of space exploration. It also set the stage for future untethered spacewalks, which have become a routine part of space missions today.
McCandless’s spacewalk was one of the most daring and innovative feats ever undertaken by an astronaut. He was the first person to experience the feeling of freedom in space, and his pioneering achievement opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for the exploration of space. His legacy as a space explorer will live on for generations to come.