3 June 1966: NASA Astronauts Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene A. Cernan launched from Launch Complex 19, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 13:39:33 UTC, aboard Gemini IX-A. The Gemini was a two-man space capsule built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis. The launch vehicle was a Titan II GLV rocket. Stafford and Cernan were the original Gemini IX back up crew, but the primary crew, Charles Bassett and Elliott See, were killed in an aircraft accident three months earlier.
The three-day mission was to rendezvous and dock with an Agena Target Docking Adapter in low Earth orbit, and for Gene Cernan to perform several space walks and to test a back pack maneuvering unit.
Gemini IX-A successfully rendezvoused with the ATDA at 17:45 UTC, 3 June. However, the protective shroud had not separated from the Agena and docking with it was not possible.
18 March 1965, 07:00:00 UTC (10:00:00 Moscow Time): Cosmonauts Павел Иванович Беляев (Pavel Ivanovich Belyaev) and Алексей Архипович Леонов (Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov) were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Voskhod-3KD spacecraft, Восход-2 (Voskhod-2). The launch vehicle was a Voskhod 11A57 two-stage liquid-fueled rocket. Voskhod-2 entered a 167 × 475 kilometers (90 × 256 nautical miles) elliptical orbit with a period of 90 minutes, 54 seconds.
As the Voskhod entered its second orbit, co-pilot Major Leonov exited the vehicle. An expandable air lock was used. This was the first time that a human had left a vehicle in space. he floated freely, though remained connected by an umbilical. This would be known as an Extravehicular Activity (an “E.V.A.,” or “space walk”). Leonov remained outside for 12 minutes, 9 seconds, establishing the first FAI World Record for Extravehicular Duration in Space. ¹
Both cosmonauts wore full-pressure suits (a “space suit”) for protection in the vacuum of space. With his suit fully inflated by pressurized air, Leonov was both larger and more rigid than was expected. He had great difficulty re-entering the Voskhod, requiring that he vent the suit pressure.
Leonov wrote about it for Air & Space:
With some reluctance I acknowledged that it was time to reenter the spacecraft. Our orbit would soon take us away from the sun and into darkness. It was then I realized how deformed my stiff spacesuit had become, owing to the lack of atmospheric pressure. My feet had pulled away from my boots and my fingers from the gloves attached to my sleeves, making it impossible to reenter the airlock feet first.
I had to find another way of getting back inside quickly, and the only way I could see to do this was pulling myself into the airlock gradually, head first. Even to do this, I would carefully have to bleed off some of the high-pressure oxygen in my suit, via a valve in its lining. I knew I might be risking oxygen starvation, but I had no choice. If I did not reenter the craft, within the next 40 minutes my life support would be spent anyway.
The only solution was to reduce the pressure in my suit by opening the pressure valve and letting out a little oxygen at a time as I tried to inch inside the airlock. At first I thought of reporting what I planned to do to mission control. But I decided against it. I did not want to create nervousness on the ground. And anyway, I was the only one who could bring the situation under control.
But I could feel my temperature rising dangerously high, with a rush of heat from my feet traveling up my legs and arms, due to the immense physical exertion all the maneuvering involved. It was taking longer than it was supposed to. Even when I at last managed to pull myself entirely into the airlock, I had to perform another almost impossible maneuver. I had to curl my body around in order to close the airlock, so pasha could activate the mechanism to equalize pressure between it and the spacecraft.
Once Pasha was sure the hatch was closed and the pressure had equalized, he triggered the inner hatch open and I scrambled back into the spacecraft, drenched with sweat, my heart racing.
—“The Nightmare of Voskhod,” by Alexey Leonov, Air & Space Smithsonian, January 2005
On 19 March, Voshkod-2’s apogee set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude in Elliptical Orbit of 497,7 kilometers (268.7 nautical miles/309.3 statute miles). ²
The space craft began to lose pressure, with it’s oxygen tanks dropping by two-thirds during Orbit 13. It was thought that the mission might have to be cut short.
It was planned for Voskhod-2 to reenter on the 16th orbit, however the automatic landing system failed to fire the spacecraft’s retrorockets. Using the Voskhod’s primary engine, a manual reentry was initiated during the 18th orbit. The crew also had to oreint the spacecraft manually, and this caused them a delay of 46 seconds before initiating reentry. They overshot there expected landing point by approximately 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles).
Voshkod-2 landed in remote area of Perm Krai at 09:02:17 UTC on 19 March. The duration of the flight was 1 day, 2 hours, 2 minutes, 17 seconds.
Having landed in a dense forest hundreds of miles from the nearest recovery teams, Belyaev and Leonov were were located about four hours later and a rescue team arrived the next day. A landing zone was cut in the forest and the cosmonauts were flown out by helicopter on 21 March.
7 February 1984: During mission STS-41-B, NASA astronauts Captain Bruce McCandless II, United States Navy, and Colonel Robert L. Stewart, United States Air Force, left the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) on the first untethered space walk.
McCandless tested each of the Manned Maneuverung Units (MMU) while Stewart tested a work station. For 5 hours, 55 minutes, they used the nitrogen-fueled Manned Maneuvering Units (MMU) to move about the outside of the space ship. At the farthest, McCandless was 320 feet (98 meters) away from Challenger.
The Manned Maneuvering Unit was designed and built by Martin Marietta Corporation (now, Lockheed Martin). It is constructed primarily of aluminum. The MMU is powered by two batteries with 852 watts at full charge, and propelled by 24 gaseous nitrogen thrusters, providing 1.4 pounds of thrust (6.2 newtons), each. The astronaut controls the MMU with two hand controllers. It has six-axis motion and automatic attitude hold. Including a full supply of nitrogen, the MMU weighs approximately 338 pounds (153.3 kilograms). It is designed for a maximum of 6 hours of operation. The unit is 50.0 inches (127.0 centimeters) high, 33.3 inches (84.6 centimeters) wide and with control arms extended, has a maximum depth of 48.0 inches (121.9 centimeters).
Bruce McCandless II was born 8 June 1937 at Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Rear Admiral Bruce McCandless, United States Navy, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions aboard USS San Francisco (CA-38) at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12–13 November 1942, and grandson of Commodore Byron McCandless. His mother was Sue Worthington Bradley McCandless.
McCandless graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, Long Beach, California, in 1954. As the son of a Medal of Honor awardee, he was qualified for an automatic appointment as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. He entered the Academy as a member of the Class of 1958. He stood first in his class in his Plebe year. He studied electronics, and photography, and was a member of the Academy’s sailing team. Aboard Royano, he competed in the annual Newport to Bermuda race.
Midshipman McCandless graduated second in his class at the United States Naval Academy, 4 June 1958 and was commissioned as an Ensign, United States Navy. He trained as a Naval Aviator at Pensacola, Florida. McCandless was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) 4 December 1959
Lieutenant (j.g.) McCandless married Miss Bernice Doyle, 6 August 1960, at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel. They would have two children, Bruce McCandless III and Tracy McCandless. She died in 2014. They had been married for 53 years.
Lieutenant (j.g.) McCandless flew the Douglas F4D-1 Skyray (F-6A after 1962) and the McDonnell F-4B Phantom II with Fighter Squadron 102 (VF-102, “Diamondbacks”), serving aboard the supercarrier USS Forrestal (CV-59), and then the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65). On 1 June 1962 McCandless was promoted to lieutenant.
Lieutenant Bruce McCandless II was accepted into the NASA’s Astronaut Group 5 astronaut, 4 April 1966, and assigned to the Apollo Program. He was promoted to lieutenant commander, 1 November 1966 He served a Mission Control communicator to Apollo 11 during the first Moon Walk, 21 July 1969.
McCandless was promoted to commander, 1 November 1972. On 1 October 1979, he advanced to the rank of Captain, United States Navy.
Captain McCandless did not fly until the space shuttle became operational. He served as a Mission Specialist aboard Challenger (STS-41-B) in 1984, and Discovery (STS-31) in 1990.
Captain McCandless logged more than 5,200 hours of flight; 312 hours, 31 minutes, 1 second in space; and completed 208 orbits of the Earth.
Captain Bruce McCandless II, United States Navy (Retired), NASA Astronaut, died 21 December 2017 at the age of 80 years. He is buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery, Annapolis, Maryland.
13 December 1972: At approximately 22:26 UTC, NASA Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt began the last of three moon walks, or EVAs, on the surface of the Moon at the Taurus-Littrow Valley.
“Bob, [Robert A.P. Parker, Astronaut, Houston Mission Control Cap Com]this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”
— Astronaut Eugene Andrew Cernan, Captain, USN, at the Taurus Littrow Valley, The Moon, at Mission Time 170:40:00
This was the final EVA of the Apollo Program, lasting approximately 7 hours, 15 minutes. Then Harrison H. Schmitt and Gene Cernan climbed up into the Lunar Module Challenger to prepare to lift off the following day.
Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon.