"Champion of the Cosmos"
Edward H. White II
November 14, 1930 - January 27, 1967
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force
Born November 14, 1930, San Antonio, Texas
Bachelor of Science, U.S. Military Academy
Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering,
University of Michigan
About the Man
Ed White was born in San Antonio, Texas, on November 14, 1930. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Military Academy in 1952. After graduating, White trained as an Air Force pilot in Florida and Texas. He earned his wings in 1953. He flew F86 and F100 fighter planes for almost four years, then returned to school at the University of Michigan.
White obtained his Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1959. That year, he attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, in California.
White was later assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, as an experimental test pilot with the Aeronautical Systems Division. In this assignment he made flight tests for research and weapons systems development, wrote technical engineering reports, and made recommendations for improvement in aircraft design and construction. NASA selected Ed White as a member of the astronaut team in September 1962.
About the Spaceflight
Ed White was the pilot for Gemini 4, a 66-revolution, 4-day mission that began on June 3, and ended on June 7, 1965. During the third revolution, he carried out the first extra vehicular activity in the United States manned space flight program. He was outside Gemini 4 for 21 minutes, and became the first man to control himself in space during EVA with a maneuvering unit. Other highlights of the mission included cabin depressurization, opening of cabin doors, and 12 scientific and medical experiments.
Ed White, First American to 'Walk' in Space
After spending four days in space, a record-breaker for America at the time, the Gemini 4 spacecraft returned to Earth on June 7, 1965. He received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the U.S. Air Force Senior Astronaut Wings for this Flight.
During the Gemini Program, astronauts learned how to dock one spacecraft against another while in orbit. They also learned to live in space for extended periods. The Gemini astronauts walked in space and made repairs on the spacecraft. These tasks came under the heading of orbital maneuvers. The orbital maneuvers performed in the Gemini Project were necessary to prepare astronauts for landing on the Moon. They practiced docking the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), the spacecraft that landed on the Moon's surface, with the Command Module (CM), the spacecraft that remained in lunar orbit.
On March 21, 1966, he was named as one of the pilots of the AS-204 mission, the first 3-man Apollo flight.
Then Tragedy Struck
In Memory of Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee
Apollo 1, the first manned mission in the Apollo Program was undergoing routine tests on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, on January 27, 1967. Suddenly, and without warning, a fire broke out inside the spacecraft, and almost instantly, the three astronauts aboard perished.
After the tragic fire, NASA delayed the Apollo program to take time to add safety features and to take precautions to prevent accidents like that from occurring on similar spacecraft. The fire aboard Apollo 1 started when sparks flew from electric wiring in the spacecraft's systems.
In the book entitled We Seven© 1962, written by the first seven astronauts themselves, Grissom said,
"If my country decided that I was 1 of the better qualified people for this new mission, then I was proud and happy to help out."
Grissom also explained to a NASA psychiatrist that he was aware of the dangers of flight, but he saw no gain in worrying about them. Instead of being anxious about his upcoming space flight, he worried about doing a good job.
Gus Grissom was one of the people who understood the risks involved with anything that deals with progress. He gave the ultimate sacrifice, his life, to pave the way for astronauts to go to the Moon. However, the three astronauts of Apollo 1 did not die in vain.
After the tragedy, NASA took measures to reduce the danger of fire that included the use of noncombustible materials, wherever possible. Scientists modified the circuitry within the Apollo spacecraft, and placed metal troughs over all exposed areas, to avert damage to connected wiring.
Scientists also redesigned the hatch of the spacecraft, enabling it to be unlocked from the inside within five seconds. This would allow the crew to be able to escape within half a minute.
Click on the Apollo One patch to read the biographies of the Apollo One Crew.
Click on the patch to read more about Ed White's historic spacewalk
aboard Gemini 4 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Website.
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