NASA has featured the photo of astronaut Bruce McCandless II flating free in space as its Astronomy Picture of the Day
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The photo shows astronaut Bruce McCandless II floating free in space back in 1984 (Image: NASA)
At first glance at this photo, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as a still from the latest space-themed blockbuster.
But the photo is very much real, and shows astronaut Bruce McCandless II floating free in space back in 1984.
The photo was featured as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day this week.
NASA explained: “What would it be like to fly free in space? At about 100 meters from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger, Bruce McCandless II was living the dream – floating farther out than anyone had ever been before.
“Guided by a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), astronaut McCandless, pictured, was floating free in space.”
Along with NASA astronaut Robert Stewart, Mr McCandless was the first to experience an ‘untethered space walk’ during Space Shuttle mission 41-B
Along with NASA astronaut Robert Stewart, Mr McCandless was the first to experience an ‘untethered space walk’ during Space Shuttle mission 41-B.
NASA added: “ The MMU worked by shooting jets of nitrogen and was 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 later replaced with the SAFER backpack propulsion unit.”
The SAFER backpack propulsion unit is essentially a lifejacket for spacewalks, and lets an astronaut move around in space on their own.
NASA explained: “SAFER is worn like a backpack. It uses small jet thrusters to let an astronaut move around in space.
“If an astronaut were to become untethered and float away, SAFER would help him or her fly back to the spacecraft. Astronauts control SAFER with a small joystick, like on a video game.”