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Image Gallery of Walks Around Earth

written by: •edited by: RC Davison•updated: 10/27/2011

One of the most exiting activities of spaceflight have occurred when astronauts and cosmonauts left their spacecraft and floated free in space. The early spacewalks or Extra Vehicehicular Activities (EVA) were done to learn if man could function free in space. Later he built and repaired structures.

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    America's First Spacewalk

    America's First Spacewalk 

    On Gemini 4, Ed White became the first American to spacewalk on June 3, 1965. The Soviets had performed the first spacewalk several months earlier. White used a hand-held oxygen-jet gun to push himself out of the Gemini and maneuver around it. After the first three minutes the fuel ran out and White maneuvered by twisting his body and pulling on the tether.

    He was having a ball. So much so that after 16 minutes, Mission Control called up and told him “Get back in.” But, White just couldn’t bring himself to do so. After a time, the ground called again with a sterner, “Get back in!”

    This prompted Spacecraft Commander James McDivitt to advise, “”You better get back in.” White begrudgingly acquiesced. He had spent 36 minutes as a human satellite.

    White later would be killed, along with Roger Chaffee and Gus Grissom, in the tragic Apollo 1 fire.

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    Walking in Deep Space

    Walking in Deep Space 

    Gemini 11 docked with an Agena upper stage. The Agena took Gemini 11 850 miles above Earth. Astronaut Richard F. Gordon Jr., pilot for Gemini 11, performed a spacewalk during this loop into deep space. The purpose of the Gemini program was to test procedures for the Moon mission. Gordon's spacewalk, in which he checked out the Agena, tested how man would function in deep space. In this picture he returns to the hatch of the spacecraft following his EVA.

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    Checking Out the Moon Craft

    Checking Out the Moon Craft 

    The Apollo 9 mission tested the docking of Apollo and the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM). In Earth orbit, the LEM was put through its paces, undocking, firing its big descent engine, the Ascent stage separating from the descent stage and returning to Apollo and docking. The next flight was the same test around the Moon. Here, Apollo 9 astronaut David Scott stands inside the Apollo capsule with the hatch open. He is looking over the LEM.

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    Between Earth and Moon

    Between Earth and Moon 

    On the way back from the Moon, Apollo 17 astronaut Ronald Evans went on a spacewalk 200,000 miles from the green hills of Earth. Evans brought in film from cameras outside the Command and Service module. Apollo 17 was the final Apollo mission to the Moon.

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    Look Houston, No Tether!

    Look Houston, No Tether! 

    Astronaut Bruce McCandless II on a spacewalk using the manned maneuvering unit (MMU) on STS-41B, February 1984. The MMU allowed astronauts to float free without a tether to the spacecraft. NASA and Martin Marietta Corporation were awarded the Collier Trophy in 1984 for the development of the MMU, and for being the NASA teams that rescued three disabled satellites, with special recognition to astronaut Bruce MeCandless II, NASA's Charles E. Whitsett, Jr. and Martin Marietta's Walter W Bollendonk.

    Apollo, and later Skylab added to NASA's research and development experience with the concept and technology of maneuvering in space, though not with the operation of any maneuvering aids in free flight in outer space. Apollo's objective was the lunar surface, not outer space. The three Skylab missions in 1973 and 1974 provided astronauts experience with weightless floating in a relatively large open space within a spacecraft, but not outside. It was not until the Space Shuttle that astronauts acquired operational experience floating outside a spacecraft.

    The award-winning manned maneuvering unit was designed for that specific type of mission: satellite rescue missions.

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    Space Glasnost

    Space Glasnost 

    Astronaut Mike Fincke, science officer and flight engineer on NASA's Expedition 9 on the International Space Station (ISS) wearing a Russian Orlan spacesuit, on one of four spacewalks performed by the crew during their six-month mission. The Expedition 9 crew rode a Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS on April 18, 2004.

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    Repairmen Extraordinaire

    Repairmen Extraordinaire 

    The final Shuttle mission to Hubble, Sept. 9, 2009, was to install several new pieces of equipment. This mission's primary scientific priority was the installation of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS).

    Wide Field Camera 3 has become the power behind studies of dark energy and dark matter, the formation of individual stars and the discovery of extremely remote galaxies previously beyond Hubble's vision. WFC3 sees three different kinds of light: near-ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared, though not simultaneously. The camera's range is much greater than that of the instruments previously aboard.

    Astronauts removed Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) to make room for WFC3. WFC3 has a higher "resolution," or ability to distinguish details, and a larger "field of view," or area the camera is able to see, than WFPC2.

    Galaxy evolution, the formation of planets, the rise of the elements needed for life, and the "cosmic web" of gas between galaxies are some of the areas of study for the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). COS sees exclusively in ultraviolet light and has improved Hubble's ultraviolet sensitivity at least 10 times, and up to 70 times when observing extremely faint objects.

    COS took the place of the device installed in Hubble during the first servicing mission to correct Hubble's flawed mirror, the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR). Since the first servicing mission, all of Hubble's replacement instruments have had technology built-in to them to correct Hubble's marred vision, making COSTAR no longer necessary.

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    Hang On to Your Tools!

    Hang On to Your Tools! 

    Building the ISS was not a simple task. While everything is weightless, the large components that had to be connected still had inertia. And the special tools needed to install them were cumbersome and often got in the way of the job. Astronauts always make sure their tools are connected to their spacesuits so they don't float away. More than one astronaut lost wrenches into outer space. One even let a camera float away into the void.

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    21st Century Construction Workers

    21st Century Construction Workers 

    Astronaut James H. Newman, mission specialist, wraps up an EVA at the ISS as he and fellow mission specialist, Jerry L. Ross (out of frame) near the completion of their third and final scheduled space walk on STS-88. Newman holds onto handrails on the U.S.-built Unity connecting module (foreground). Zarya (the Russian control module) can be seen beyond Newman, over ocean waters some 173 nautical miles below. With precise grace, an overhead crane swings a 10-ton building block into position. Then, workers move in, climbing onto the structure and using hand and power tools to bolt the pieces together. It is a workday scene that could be found on almost any city street corner, but this construction site is 250 miles up—in the airless reaches of space, where conditions alternate hourly between freezing and searing. The construction workers are astronauts, the cranes are a new generation of space robotics and the skyscraper taking shape is the International Space Station.

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    Launch Pad in Space

    Launch Pad in Space 

    Mission Specialist (MS) Peterson wearing an Extravehicular Maneuvering Unit, works his way from the forward payload bay (PLB) to the aft bulkhead work site along the port side sill longeron using a tether and slidewire system, while MS Musgrave floats on a tether in center of the PLB.

    The Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) Airborne Support Equipment (ASE) forward frame and aft frame tilt actuator (AFTA) table appear in front and behind Musgrave. A crew member safety-tether reel floats on Musgrave's waist tether.

    The Inertial Upper Stage and Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)-A has been raised above the payload bay (out of view in the image) by the electromechanical tilt actuator to a 58 degree deployment position. Several satellites were launched from Shuttles, including the Hubble. Of course, Hubble was simply lifted away from the spacecraft by the Shuttle's arm. Rockets on Hubble then moved it into its own orbit.