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Watch Ed White Perform the First American Spacewalk, 52 Years Ago Today

Today is the the 52nd 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 done outside the protection of a spacecraft. The video above shows footage of the historic Gemini IV EVA with narration by White himself. (Sound begins about 30 seconds in.)

The photo below was captured on medium-format film by fellow astronaut Jim McDivitt from inside the Gemini IV craft. It shows White 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. (You can see scans of the original photos from the mission here on ASU’s “March to the Moon” gallery.)

Ed White on the first American spacewalk on June 3, 1965. (NASA)

Ed White on the first American spacewalk on June 3, 1965. (NASA)

White was tragically killed just 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 an alien environment, whether it’s in Earth orbit, on the Moon, on Mars…or somewhere we haven’t even thought of visiting yet!

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Here’s to 50 Years of American Spacewalks

Ed White on the first American spacewalk on June 3, 1965. (NASA)

Ed White on the first American spacewalk on June 3, 1965. (NASA)

Today we mark the 50th anniversary of American spacewalks, or EVAs (for extra-vehicular activity), the first of which was performed by NASA astronaut Edward H. White II in Earth orbit on June 3, 1965 during the Gemini IV mission.

While the United States had been beaten in the spacewalk race by the Soviet Union by almost three months (Aleksei Leonov performed the very first human spacewalk in March of the same year) it was nevertheless an enormous achievement for the country, NASA, and of course for Ed White too!

The video above shows footage of the historic EVA with a narration by White himself. (Sound begins about 30 seconds in.) Sadly, Ed White was killed two years later on Jan. 27, 1967 in the fire that claimed his life and those of fellow Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Roger Chaffee. But his legacy will live on each and every time an American astronaut suits up and opens a hatch to venture out into an alien environment, whether it’s in Earth orbit, on the Moon, on Mars, or somewhere we haven’t even thought of yet!

You can see scans of the original film photos from the Gemini IV mission here on ASU’s “March to the Moon” gallery, and check out NASA’s tribute to 50 years of spacewalks gallery here.

A Front Row Seat to a Spacewalk

Astronaut Scott Parazynski on EVA, November 3, 2007. Photo by Doug Wheelock.

This was just so cool I had to share. It’s a photo taken by astronaut Doug Wheelock while on EVA on November 3, 2007 with Scott Parazynski aboard the ISS. He describes the scene on his Twitpic post (in the eloquent way only Doug can):

“A front-row seat to a spacewalk. I remember this moment like it was yesterday. I am so glad that although my hands were nearly frozen…my mind was still sort of semi-functioning. 🙂 I had thought what a hard-fought battle this was to find a solution and fix this torn solar array. Our brilliant engineers on the Earth had come up with an ‘Apollo 13 – esque’ solution and they instructed us to fashion five cufflinks from scrap materials onboard the Space Station. We turned the Node 2 ‘Harmony’ module into a metal shop…to manufacture the cufflinks to be used to sew the torn array together. It was a crazy crazy idea…but we thought that it just might work…

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