Today marks the the anniversary of America’s first spacewalk, performed by NASA astronaut Edward H. White II on the afternoon of June 3, 1965 during the four-day Gemini IV mission. In NASA terminology spacewalks are also referred to as extravehicular activities, or “EVAs” – basically anything performed by a person in space outside a spacecraft. The video below shows footage from the historic Gemini IV EVA, with narration added from Ed himself.
The photo at top was captured on medium-format film by fellow astronaut Jim McDivitt from inside the Gemini IV craft. It shows Ed free-floating in orbit during his EVA, holding the Hand-held Maneuvering Unit (or “zip gun”) that used canisters of propellant to move the user around. I cleaned up the image of film grain and dust (you can find hi-res scans of the original photos from the mission here on ASU’s “March to the Moon” gallery.)
NASA and the United States were beaten to this Space Race milestone by the Soviet Union, which achieved the first human spacewalk 76 days earlier with Aleksei Leonov’s EVA on March 18, 1965.
Ed White was tragically killed less than two years later on Jan. 27, 1967 in the fire that claimed his life and those of fellow Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee. But his legacy lives on each and every time an American astronaut suits up and opens a hatch to venture out into the vacuum of space.