Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Then and Now

At least it was “now” a couple of weeks ago. As some frequent readers know, I am enamored of spaceflight and things outside the shell of our atmosphere. Why? Well, because it’s cool and I’m a guy and astronauts get to play with some of the worlds biggest toys.

But those toys weren’t always so big. For instance, 44 years ago today (June 3, 1965) to Ed White found his Gemini 4 capsule so constraining he popped the door and went for a walk. In space. OK, so maybe it wasn’t quite like this, but White was the first American to walk in space. (The first spacewalk took place about two and a half months earlier when Soviet Alexey Leonov stepped outside the Voskhod 2. Booo Commies!)

Anyway, can you blame the guy? I think if I had to spend four days in a 3-foot by 3-foot by 10-foot tube (90 cubic feet) with another guy I’d be looking for the door too.

According to Wikipedia: “After 15 minutes 40 seconds White was instructed by Houston to reenter the spacecraft. He said, ‘It's the saddest moment of my life.’ ” White eventually spent 23 minutes outside Gemini 4 and traveled 6,500 miles as he hung about 150 miles above the Earth.
Here is a picture taken of White by the mission commander James McDivitt:


Compare it to one taken less than a month ago aboard the space shuttle Atlantis during the STS-125 Hubble repair mission:

Here’s the NASA caption to the picture: Tethered to the end of the remote manipulator system arm, which was controlled from inside Atlantis' crew cabin, STS-125 astronaut Andrew Feustel navigates near the Hubble Space Telescope, during the mission's third spacewalk on May 16, 2009. Astronaut John Grunsfeld signals to his crewmate from just a few feet away. Astronauts Feustel and Grunsfeld were continuing servicing work on the giant observatory, which was locked down in the cargo bay of shuttle Atlantis.

In 44 years we’ve gone from merely floating outside in space to spending hours outside doing a billion-dollar service call on one of history’s most important scientific instruments. I’m sure that White, who along with Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee tragically died in the pad fire that destroyed Apollo 1, would be just as impressed with the work his fellow astronauts did last month as I am.

1 comment:

LiLu said...

B was watching some smart-y space thing the other day, and it showed a close up of the moon... and that the first traveler's footprints are STILL THERE. Maybe I am an idiot, and when I thought about it of course it makes sense, being that there's no atmosphere and such to disturb them, but I just thought that was really, really cool.