Challenger 1984 — The First Untethered Space Walk

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First Untethered Space Walk, with LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®

From Moonwalk to Spacewalk

As of this writing, the United States is the only country to have crew members walk on the Moon — in fact, the U.S. did so six times between 1969 and 1972.

It would have been enough if all we did was walk on the Moon. But, on February 7, 1984, Navy Captain Bruce McCandless II added another feather to our proverbial American cap by performing the first untethered space walk.

Untethered Space Walk, with LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®

Where is My Supersuit?!

In a modified space suit, the design of which he collaborated on, Captain Bruce McCandless II made the first untethered space walk during a Challenger mission to deploy two communications satellites.

This mission marked the first test of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). McCandless orbited Earth in tangent with the shuttle at speeds greater than 17,500 miles per hour. At one point, he was about 320 feet — more than the length of a football field — away from the shuttle.

After the mission, McCandless remarked:

"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. ... I'd been told of the quiet vacuum you experience in space, but with three radio links saying, 'How's your oxygen holding out?', 'Stay away from the engines!' and 'When's my turn?', it wasn't that peaceful... It was a wonderful feeling, a mix of personal elation and professional pride: it had taken many years to get to that point."

Challenger 1984 untethered space walk, with LIBERTY FLAGS, The American Wave®

NASA's Space Walk Video Footage

For more on the Bruce McCandless' space walk and those that followed, here's a 32-minute special from NASA.

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