A Space Walk

On this day in 1984, American astronaut Bruce McCandless became the first person in history to make an untethered spacewalk.

Bruce McCandless was the first man to ever exit a spacecraft without a tether, 1984. Photograph by Robert Lee Gibson.

McCandless' walk lasted more than six hours, during which time he traveled faster than 18,000 miles per hour. Photograph by Robert Lee Gibson.

“I don’t like those overused lines 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth,' but when I was free from the shuttle, they felt accurate. It was a wonderful feeling, a mix of personal elation and professional pride: it had taken many years to get to that point." - Bruce McCandless

After three untethered spacewalks in 1984, the Manned Maneuvering Units (MMUs) were not used again, as NASA decided to only perform tethered spacewalks for safety reasons. However, in 1994, NASA introduced a new backpack - Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue (SAFER), which was tested with a spacewalk. It was the fourth and last untethered spacewalk.

You can read the original New York Times article from 1984 that reported the spacewalk here.

As a sidenote, I just want to take a minute to appreciate the awesome nature of these two photographs. They are truly iconic, and quite literally out of this world. I know that we are somewhat spoiled with space photos - anyone who follows the International Space Station on social media is treated to some really beautiful photos on a daily basis. But these two pictures... That's a man out there. Floating in space. Free. Pretty amazing if you ask me. 

Let's also give credit to Challenger Pilot Robert Lee "Hoot" Gibson, who took the two photographs from the spacecraft. I've heard that after Gibson saw the photos, he imagined a good caption could be: "NASA Photo by Hooter."