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The First Human Rocket

Astronaut Bruce McCandless uses a rocket-pack outside the space shuttle Challenger (Getty Images)

Can you imagine a time when a man flying in space was a dream? I was pretty young when it happened, but I can remember when the first man was launched into space, when the first man orbited the Earth and when the first man set foot on the moon. It’s just a footnote in history these days, but just the thought of that just a few decades ago was incredible.

There was another space first that happened on this date 30 years ago. Astronaut Bruce McCandless became the first human to fly in space without a safety tether. While 170 miles above the Earth, McCandless crawled out of the space shuttle Challenger and used a rocket pack to move as far away as the length of a football field from the shuttle while himself traveling 17,500 miles an hour. At that speed he basically became a human satellite. After an hour and a half he returned to the Challenger.

Later in the day, astronaut Robert Stewart did the same thing. It proved men could easily, dependably and safely work outside of space craft and laid the groundwork for future space missions.

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