Created By The Mercury 7 Astronauts
During the first of his two Space Shuttle flights, in 1984, Bruce McCandless II became the first human satellite, the first person to fly free in space, without a lifeline attached to his mother ship. Six years later, he helped another shuttle crew launch the remarkable Hubble Space Telescope.
McCandless was born June 8, 1937, in Boston, Mass., and received a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958 (where he was graduated second in a class of 899), a master of science degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1965, and a masters degree in business administration from the University of Houston in Clear Lake in 1987.
Following graduation from Annapolis, McCandless received flight training from the Naval Aviation Training Command and was designated a naval aviator in 1960. He received weapons system and carrier landing training in the F-6A Skyray at Key West, FL, and saw duty aboard the carriers Forrestal and Enterprise, including the latter’s participation in the 1962 Cuban blockade. In early 1964, he was an instrument flight instructor in Attack Squadron 43 at the Naval Air Station, Oceana, Va., and then reported to the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Unit at Stanford University for graduate studies in electrical engineering. He has logged more than 5,200 hours flying time, 5,000 in jet aircraft.
NASA selected McCandless for astronaut training in 1966, and after serving in several mission support positions, he was assigned to fly on the shuttle Challenger, which lifted off on an eight-day trip on February 3, 1984. The five-man crew properly deployed two communications satellites, but they failed to reach desired orbits because of upper stage engine problems. Then it was time for the show-stopper of the flight – the first test of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), a jet-powered back pack designed to allow an astronaut to walk and work in space without being tethered to his ship. McCandless and fellow space walker Robert Stewart, wearing space suits, slipped into the open cargo bay, where two of the MMUs were stowed. McCandless donned one of them and, using the small jets, he moved effortlessly about 320 feet from Challenger. Television beamed from space showed him silhouetted against a deep black sky, as he turned somersaults to test the new device. He controlled himself perfectly by triggering the small jets that spit bursts of nitrogen from the pack. He returned to the cargo bay, and Stewart took his own spin with the Buck Rogers-like machine. Two days later, the two were back outside to test the second MMU. “We have a nice flying machine here,” McCandless remarked.
McCandless returned to space aboard Discovery in 1990, with a five-person crew that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope, which opened a striking new window on the universe for astronomers around the world. During five days aloft, the crew also performed several experiments, most of them studying the effects of weightlessness on materials.
McCandless left NASA after this second flight and currently is chief scientist with Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Space Transportation office in Denver.
Bruce McCandless was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on April 30, 2005.