Josh Gelernter: Americans in SpacePosted: May 24, 2015
Fifty years ago next month, Ed White made America’s first space walk
Josh Gelernter writes: We’re coming up to the 50th anniversary of one of the best-known photographs in history: astronaut Ed White floating in space with a gem-like blue Earth floating beneath him. Ed White made America’s first space walk on the first day of NASA’s Gemini 4 mission, June 3, 1965. Ed White, tethered to the Gemini capsule by a gold hose, was on the cover of Life; White and his photographer, Gemini 4 commander Jim McDivitt, were on the cover of Time.
White and McDivitt were both members of NASA’s second astronaut class, the “New Nine,” who followed the original “Mercury Seven.” The New Nine are generally considered the all-time greatest group of astronauts. They included Frank Borman, who commanded the first flight to the moon, Apollo 8, and Jim Lovell, who navigated Apollo 8 and commanded Apollo 13. Lovell was the first man to fly in space four times, and the first to fly to the moon twice.
Also: Pete Conrad, who commanded the first American space station and the second moon landing, and Tom Stafford, the pilot for the first space-rendezvous mission (Gemini 6A), the commander of the “dress rehearsal” for the first moon landing (Apollo 10), and the commander of the first joint American–Soviet space mission, Apollo–Soyuz.
And John Young, who flew on the first Gemini mission, flew to the moon twice, on Apollo 10 and Apollo 16, which he commanded; commanded the first Space Shuttle flight and the first Spacelab mission, and became the first man to fly in space six times.
That’s seven. Number eight is Elliot See, who died in a plane crash while he was training to command Gemini 9. The ninth of the New Nine was Neil Armstrong — who, by the way, also commanded Gemini 8, the first space-docking mission.
See died before ever flying in space. Ed White died during preparation for Apollo 1, when a fire broke out in the capsule; White, Roger Chaffee, and Gus Grissom suffocated before they could open the hatch to escape….(read more)
— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard.