‘The scariest space photo’ of all time… fly like a bird in space

▲ Astronaut McCandless is free spacewalking without a lifeline and relying on a maneuvering device. (Source = NASA)

What would it feel like to fly freely like a bird in space? On the 14th of ‘Today’s Astrophotography’ run by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an image selected as ‘the scariest picture in the universe’ was posted and attracting attention.

In 1984, about 100 meters from the cargo hold of the space shuttle Challenger, astronaut Bruce McCandless II was floating freely in space, guided by a manned maneuvering unit (MMU). At that time, McCandless and fellow astronaut Robert Stewart experienced the first ‘wireless spacewalk’. It was the first space walk without a lifeline attached to a safe spacecraft. It was a great adventure to test the MMU to see if it worked in space, and it was also called ‘the scariest picture in space’.

It’s a frightening scene that reminds us of Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who saves the main character (Sandra Bullock) in the movie ‘Gravity’ and then disappears into space. The MMU works by firing nitrogen jets and is used to deploy and retrieve satellites. With a mass of over 140 kg, the MMU is heavy on Earth, but like everything else, it is weightless, or has zero weight, when drifting in orbit. The MMU was later replaced by the SAFER backpack propulsion unit.

“It was so cold that my teeth chattered, but it was nothing,” McCandless said of the free spacewalk. “I’ve heard it said that space is a silent vacuum, but I kept talking on the radio, It wasn’t very peaceful.”

Lee Kwang-sik, science columnist [email protected]

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2023-05-15 00:47:50

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