NASA Image of the Day: Free Flight in Space

Free flight in space is a dream that mankind has always thought about.

What do we see in today’s NASA image?

Today’s NASA image shows Bruce McCandless II spacewalking approximately 100 meters from the space shuttle Challenger’s payload bay.

This astronaut was able to float freely in space by guiding a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). McCandless and his colleague Robert Stewart, another NASA astronaut, were the first to experience a “spacewalk without a safety cable” on Space Shuttle Mission 41-B in 1984.

The MMU operated by firing jets of nitrogen gas and was used to assist in the deployment and recovery of satellites. At more than 140 kilograms, this manned maneuvering unit is heavy on the ground, but when hovering in orbit, it is as weightless as anything else. The MMU was later replaced by the SAFER backpack thruster unit.

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