54 years ago, on June 3, a new frontier was opened. It was only the second time a man walked in space, and the first time for a NASA astronaut.
Ed White became the first American to walk in space just ten weeks after Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov was the first human to literally spacewalk.
What did White do in space?
Ed White spent approximately 20 minutes outside of his spacecraft floating in space. The only thing attaching him to the capsule was a 23-foot tether and 25 foot umbilical. Far below him, he could see Earth as he floated in zero gravity.
White traveled at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour and clocked up a total distance of 6,500 miles thanks to orbital gravity.
The American called his space walk "the greatest experience". It was so thrilling, in fact, that he reportedly didn't want to reenter the spacecraft. He told mission commander James McDivitt, "I'm not coming in... This is fun." — a line that was immortalized in the next day's New York Daily News.
White's space legacy
White's foray into space was part of a crucial mission gathering data that eventually aided the first walk on the moon. It was the start of a series of events that captured the world's collective imagination and led renowned science populariser Carl Sagan to say, “we have committed ourselves to space, and I do not think that we are about to turn back.”
As part of the four-day Gemini IV mission, Ed White and James McDivitt set out to study the effects of prolonged space travel. Aside from the world's second spacewalk, they also carried out 11 experiments aboard their spacecraft, including Earth photography and spacecraft navigation data collection to aid future space missions.
Today, if Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are to be believed, we are on the verge of space tourism. White is one of the many brave men and women that set space travel in motion for humanity.