Monday, June 3, 2013

Major Edward H. White II became the first American to walk in space in 1965

White during his spacewalk
On June 3, 1965, Major Edward H. White II became the first American to walk in space as part of the Gemini program. Gemini is the least known of the three programs that were part of NASA's mission to put men on the moon. It followed Mercury and preceded Apollo.

White opened the hatch 120 miles above the earth's surface and stepped outside attached to Gemini 4 by a 25' tether. He controlled his movements by handheld oxygen jet-propulsion gun. In the picture at right you can see the device in his right hand. He was outside for 20 minutes

The Gemini program began at the height of the space race. Mercury had put man into orbit and Gemini would lay the groundwork for the Apollo lunar missions. Gemini was the first to involve multiple crews and the longer missions allowed Doctors to study the effects of longer-term space flights. When the Gemini program ended astronauts had perfected the rendevous and docking maneuvers with other orbiting space craft, something that would be essential for the three stage Apollo moon missions.

White would die on the launch pad along with Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee due to a fire in Apollo 1 during pre-launch tests on January 27,1967.
(L to R)White, Grissom and Chaffee

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