Bruce McCandless, immortalised in famous spacewalk photo, dies age 80

Bruce McCandless was 47 when he flew the MMU through space. Source: Getty

Bruce McCandless, the first person to fly untethered in space, has died aged 80.

The astronaut died on Thursday in the US, NASA announced, with Robert Lightfoot, the acting NASA administrator, saying that McCandless would aways be known for the iconic photograph of him flying a manned manoeuvring unit (MMU) in space.

The 1984 flight was the first time any human had conducted a free-flight spacewalk.

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But McCandless was so much more than just that one, history-making flight, NASA said, having served as the mission control communicator for Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk on the Apollo 11 mission, and having helped deploy the famous Hubble Space Telescope in 1990.

During his career he spend more than 300 hours in space.

McCandless, a former US Navy captain (as a naval aviator, he took part in the Cuban missile crisis blockade of 1962), joined NASA in 1966, and earned dozens of awards and honours during his time there, for his work in engineering, aeronautics and defence. He also held a patent for  designing a tethering system that was used during shuttle space walks.

He leaves behind his wife, Ellen, a son and two daughters.

Do you remember Bruce McCandless’ famous spacewalk in 1984?