NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless, the first person to fly freely and untethered in space, has died, the AP reports. He was 80. McCandless was famously photographed in 1984 flying with a hefty spacewalker's jetpack, alone in the cosmic blackness above a blue Earth. He traveled more than 300 feet away from the space shuttle Challenger during the spacewalk. "The iconic photo of Bruce soaring effortlessly in space has inspired generations of Americans to believe that there is no limit to the human potential," Sen. John McCain said in a statement. "Bruce served his country with humility and dignity, and encouraged all of us to reach new heights." NASA's Johnson Space Center said Friday that McCandless died Thursday in California. No cause of death was given.
McCandless said he wasn't nervous about the historic spacewalk. "I was grossly over-trained. I was just anxious to get out there and fly. I felt very comfortable ... It got so cold my teeth were chattering and I was shivering, but that was a very minor thing," he told Colorado's Daily Camera in 2006. He added in the Guardian in 2015: "It was a wonderful feeling, a mix of personal elation and professional pride: it had taken many years to get to that point." McCandless was later part of the 1990 shuttle crew that delivered the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit. He also served as the Mission Control capsule communicator in Houston as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in 1969. Survivors include his wife, two children, and two grandchildren.
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