Flying Free in Space

Flying Free in Space

Astronaut Bruce McCandless floated in space completely unattached to anything, 320 feet away from the space shuttle with only a nitrogen jetpack back in 1984.

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Bruce McCandless, the Nasa astronaut who was the first one to fly freely and untethered in space, died in 2017. He was famously photographed in 1984 flying with a spacewalker’s jetpack, alone in the cosmic blackness above the Earth. He traveled more than 90m (300ft) away from the space shuttle Challenger during the spacewalk.

“The iconic photo of Bruce soaring effortlessly in space has inspired generations of Americans to believe that there is no limit to the human potential,” senator John McCain said in a statement. The Arizona Republican and McCandless were classmates at the US naval academy.

In an interview in 2006, McCandless said he had not been nervous about the historic spacewalk. “I was grossly over-trained. I was just anxious to get out there and fly. I felt very comfortable ... It got so cold my teeth were chattering and I was shivering, but that was a very minor thing,” he told the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado.

During that flight, McCandless and fellow astronaut Robert Stewart pioneered the use of Nasa’s backpack device that allowed astronauts walking in space to propel themselves from the shuttle. Stewart became the second person to fly untethered two hours after McCandless.

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