June 3, 1965: Ed White becomes first American to walk in space
When it comes to astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin always get all of the love. The two found themselves on numerous TV shows and films after their Apollo 11 flight. Before they could become megastars, there was one American that walked the walk… literally.
Take to the skies
With his father in the Air Force, Texas native Ed White wanted to follow in his footsteps. Following high school, he joined the United States Military Academy and became Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. During his time with the Air Force, White flew for well over 3,000 hours.
With a slew of flying experience, he was chosen as part of NASA’s Gemini 4 space flight. This specific flight was set up to have an American walk in space for the first time. Russia made history two months earlier by having the first person ever (Alexei Leonov) walking in space. NASA was impressed with White’s work in the Air Force and gave him the pilot position.
Dude, where’s my titan?
The mission began on June 3, 1965, and White, along with co-pilot James A. McDivitt, already had a major problem. They were supposed to meet up with Titan II launch vehicle for the first ever space rendezvous. Like a typical get together on The Real Housewives, this became a disaster quickly. Due to only two lights on Titan II, they weren’t able to finalize its location. Aside from that, Gemini 4 wasn’t equipped with a radar. This meant both men used their own eyes to predict where Titan II can be found. With different points of view, they simply gave up on that mission.
Walk this way
While they bailed on Titan II, their main assignment was finally in their reach. Hovering over Australia, White opened the hatch and walked on space for 20 minutes. McDivitt stayed inside the vehicle and took multiple pictures of his tethered co-pilot. Luckily, he didn’t spend hours trying to find the right filter or hashtag.
After 66 orbits around the world, they came back to Earth on June 7, 1965. For his accomplishment, White earned several accolades, including the General Thomas D. White National Defense Award. For White, the thrill of being in space was the only prize he needed.