Death of astronaut Bruce McCandless II, who had moved freely in space

Ⓒ NASA/AFP/Archives – – | US astronaut Bruce McCandless moves freely in space on his space wheelchair on February 7, 1984 during a space mission of the American Space Shuttle Challenger

The photo of Bruce McCandless II had been around the world: in 1984, the American astronaut floated in space in his suit, the globe in the background, without any connection with his shuttle. He died Thursday at the age of 80.

NASA announced its death on Friday.

Bruce McCandless II was the first astronaut to float in sidereal immensity, thanks to a diving suit equipped with propulsors allowing him to move in a vacuum.

Recruited in 1966 by the American space agency, he also participated in the deployment of the Hubble telescope in 1990.

The retired astronaut was still dreaming of schoolchildren in Toulouse, where he participated in October at the 30th World Congress of Astronauts.

Had he been afraid of this first free step in space? “No, I had worked so hard, tested the material for 300 hours,” he said to a little girl. “There were 24 thrusters, there was no chance I would get lost in space.”

“The most extraordinary thing is the vision of the Earth just through my helmet,” said the octogenarian, alert. “The most extraordinary thing when you’re an astronaut: you do not see the countries, the borders, you see the humans, the spaceship Earth.”

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