Gemini IV — The First American Spacewalk
From Spacewalk to Moonwalk
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.
But those moonwalks would never have happened without the spacewalks that preceded them — the first of which was taken on June 3, 1965, by Ed White during the Gemini IV spaceflight. Twenty minutes of tethered free-floating that paved the way for future expeditions to the surface of the moon.
Prior to Gemini IV, American astronauts had never stepped outside of their spacecraft while in space. For Gemini IV, however, a little extra-vehicular activity was part of the mission plan.
During the third (of 66 in four days) revolution around the Earth, Astronaut Ed White became the first American to expose himself to the elements of space. Wearing a suit tethered to the spacecraft, and carrying a handheld maneuvering unit, White spent about 20 minutes floating in space.
The maneuvering unit was full of compressed oxygen that White used to move himself about while his fellow astronaut, James McDivitt, took photographs.
Upon re-boarding the craft from space, White quipped:
"It's the saddest moment of my life."
NASA's Gemini IV Video Footage
For a look at some of the restored footage of Ed White's spacewalk, here's a 6-minute special from NASA.
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