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Flying Free: Iconic NASA Astronaut McCandless Has Died

NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II during his flight test of the MMU on February 7, 1984. (NASA)

On Feb. 7, 1984, astronaut Bruce McCandless II became the first “human satellite” when he performed the first test flight of NASA’s Manned Maneuvering Unit during STS-41B. Propelled by 24 small nitrogen-powered thrusters, the chair-like MMU allowed McCandless (who helped engineer the Unit at Lockheed Martin) to travel freely through space without any tethers or cords connecting him to a spacecraft. In the iconic image above, an edit of a photo captured by STS-41B pilot Hoot Gibson, McCandless is seen floating against the blackness of space. Here he was just a few feet away from the bay of the space shuttle Challenger, but he would eventually reach a distance of 320 feet (98 meters) from the orbiter!

A former Navy captain and previously Capcom for the Apollo 11 lunar mission, McCandless was 46 years old when he performed his historic tether-free EVA in 1984. This past Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, Bruce McCandless II passed away at the age of 80.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bruce’s family,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “He will always be known for his iconic photo flying the MMU.”

Read NASA’s statement about the death of Bruce McCandless, and read more about McCandless’ historic EVA here.

 

 

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A Heck of a Leap: When Bruce McCandless Became the First Human Satellite

NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II during his flight test of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) in February 1984 (NASA)

NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II during his flight test of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) on February 7, 1984 (NASA)

On Feb. 7, 1984, NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II became the first “human satellite” when he tested the Manned Maneuvering Unit during STS-41B. Propelled via 24 small nitrogen-powered thrusters, the MMU allowed McCandless (who was instrumental in developing the Unit at Lockheed Martin) to travel freely through space. In the iconic photo above McCandless is seen floating against the blackness of space, 320 feet (98 meters) away from the Challenger orbiter…and 217 miles (350 km) above the Earth!

A former U.S. Navy captain, McCandless was 46 years old when he performed his historic tether-free EVA.

“May well have been one small step for Neil, but it’s a heck of a big leap for me!”
– STS-41B Mission Specialist Bruce McCandless II, Feb. 7, 1984

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The First Human Satellite: Flying Free With the MMU

NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II during his flight test of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) in  February 1984 (NASA)

NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II during his flight test of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) in February 1984 (NASA)

31 years ago today, on Feb. 7, 1984, NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II became the first “human satellite” when he tested the Manned Maneuvering Unit during STS-41B. Self-propelled via 24 small nitrogen-powered thrusters, the MMU allowed McCandless (who was instrumental in developing the Unit at Lockheed Martin) to travel tether-free through space. In the iconic photo above McCandless is seen hovering against the blackness of space, 320 feet (98 meters) away from the Challenger orbiter.

A former U.S. Navy captain, McCandless was 46 years old when he performed his historic tether-free flight.

“May well have been one small step for Neil, but it’s a heck of a big leap for me!”
– STS-41B Mission Specialist Bruce McCandless II, Feb. 7, 1984

Read the rest of this entry

Learn How to See the Big Picture With “The Orbital Perspective”

The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles (By Ron Garan Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.)

The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles (By Ron Garan Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.)

If you’re anything like me you get a lot of your information online through various news and social media sources. This is great, as it puts the most up-to-date news in front of you instantly. But sometimes it’s nice to sit down and open up a book – yes, a real live book with pages you turn and non-clickable text (gasp!) – and explore a topic much more intimately than you normally could in a web article.

As a member of the “OP release crew” I recently had the opportunity to do precisely that with a pre-release copy of Ron Garan’s book The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles. A decorated fighter pilot, astronaut, and entrepreneur, Ron has logged 178 days in space and over 71 million miles in orbit (hence the title.) He is the founder of the nonprofit social enterprise incubator Manna Energy Foundation and is also the founder of Fragile Oasis, which uses the orbital perspective to inspire positive social and environmental action. During his time living and working in space over the course of two missions – shuttle mission STS-124 and Expedition 27/28 aboard the ISS – as well as participating in various humanitarian programs on Earth, Ron has developed a sense of acute awareness of the interconnectiveness of humanity, of how we really are “all in this together.” Unfortunately, regardless of how beautiful our planet looks from orbit there’s no denying that living conditions in many places around the world are belied by that beauty. Having seen the world first-hand from both viewpoints, Ron has become aware of the paradox but doesn’t feel that it has to be “just the way things are” – he believes we have the ability to change things on a global scale but only if we work together… only if we can achieve an orbital perspective.

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Endeavour Rolls Through LA Neighborhoods

The shuttle Endeavour is driven down Crenshaw Drive in Inglewood, CA on Saturday, October 13 (via NBC4 LA live feed)

This weekend the space shuttle Endeavour is on its way to the California Science Center, getting driven via Overland Transporter along 12 miles of Los Angeles roads at a more-or-less steady 2 mph. Hundreds of onlookers have gathered along the route to catch a glimpse of a real-life spaceship passing by just outside their front doors. Now that’s really not something you see every day!

Endeavour cleared one tree trunk by mere inches!

The move from Los Angeles International Airport, where it landed atop a Boeing 747 on Sept. 1, has been dubbed Mission 26. Endeavour flew 25 missions, traveled 122,883,151 miles and orbited Earth 4,671 times since 1992.

All together, the move is expected to cost about $10 million. The exhibit is set to open Oct. 30.

LA’s NBC affiliate is broadcasting Endeavour’s road trip live here.

(Images via NBC4 LA live video)

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