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Gemini 4

June 3, 2015

CAPCOM: Gemini 4, Hawaii capcom. We just had word from Houston — we’re ready to have you get out whenever you’re ready.

Today it’s almost routine — it happens every few weeks. Just a few years into the Space Age, though, no American astronaut had yet left the comfort and safety of his ship. But 50 years ago today, that changed. Ed White stepped outside his Gemini 4 spacecraft and floated into the history books.

WHITE: Okay, my feet are out....Okay, I’m out...

While fellow astronaut Jim McDivitt looked on, White floated outside for more than 20 minutes — on the first American spacewalk.

The ability to work outside the capsule was crucial to the American goal of landing and working on the Moon. And White made it look easy. He maneuvered around with a small gas gun, and enjoyed the spectacular view. [WHITE: I feel like a million dollars.]

He enjoyed it so much that it took some effort — and the prodding of flight director Chris Kraft — to get him back inside.

KRAFT: The flight director says get back in! WHITE: Okay. Coming in.

On later flights, though, spacewalking turned out to be amazingly hard. Astronauts didn’t master the craft until the final Gemini flight the following year. But since then, they’ve left their craft hundreds of times — to explore the Moon, capture and repair satellites, and construct a space station — all building on the legacy of a space pioneer.

Tomorrow: Mars loses an ocean.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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