Photo Of The Day

Image Credit: NASA  This is the photograph of the floating astronaut in space.

Image Credit: NASA
Floating Astronaut in Space.

Floating Free

NASA?has had a great knack for producing awe-inspiring images. In its history of space exploration, the most jaw-dropping photographs are usually those that involve stars and galaxies thousands of light-years away. A few other great images, however, are much closer to home. In this iconic image of a lonely spaceman stuck between earth and nothingness, NASA was able to successfully perform a free spacewalk for the very first time.

The flying spaceman in the picture Captain Bruce McCandless II, is credited for having made the first untethered free flight in space. Previously, and even now, any?Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs)?performed by astronauts were done so with a tether. Spacewalks were thus limited to the length of the tether. With the new?Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), spacewalks could be performed untethered.

The free flight was done on?February?12, 1984?with the nitrogen jet backpack. McCandless?traveled?some 320 feet away from the space shuttle Challenger, farther than any astronaut had attempted ever before. The resulting view showed a small astronaut against the blackness of space and the pale blues and whites of the earth.

Explanation:?At about 100 meters from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger, McCandless was farther out than anyone had ever been before. Guided by a?MMU, astronaut McCandless was floating free in space.?McCandless?and fellow?NASA astronaut?Robert Stewart?were the first to?experience?such an “untethered?space walk” during?Space Shuttle?mission?41-B?in?1984. The?MMU?works by shooting jets of?nitrogen and has since been used to help deploy and retrieve satellites. With a mass over 140 kilograms, an?MMU?is heavy on?Earth, but, like everything, is weightless when drifting in orbit. The MMU was replaced with the?SAFER?backpack propulsion unit.