Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Astronauts Performed The First Untethered Spacewalk?

James McDivitt
Alexey Leonov
Bruce McCandless II
Edward H. White
Astronaut Bruce McCandless II during his untethered EVA near the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984.
Robert Gibson/NASA

Answer: Bruce McCandless II

It might not be as high profile as the first step on the Moon, but U.S. astronaut Bruce McCandless earned a very special place in history by making the first untethered spacewalk—the first time a human being had ever drifted freely from their spacecraft in the cold vacuum of space.

In 1984, while participating in the tenth NASA Space Shuttle Mission, STS-41-B, McCandless took NASA’s Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) out for the first time. Over the course of the 5 hour and 55 minute spacewalk, McCandless maneuvered around the orbiting shuttle, reaching a maximum distance of 320 feet (98 meters) from the craft.

While McCandless might not have become a household name in the same fashion as Buzz Aldrin, his likeness certainly achieved quite a bit of fame. The image of him floating freely above the Earth, seen here, has appeared in textbooks, on posters, and on space-related paraphernalia like calendars and t-shirts ever since.

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