Bruce McCandless was a NASA astronaut who was the first person to fly freely and untethered in space during a 1984 space shuttle missions has passed away on Dec 21 in California at aged 80.
At age 26 in 1966, NASA picked him as the youngest member of a newly recruited 19-man astronaut group.
McCandless is survived by his wife, Ellen Shields McCandless, two children and two grandchildren.
He was a member of the support crew for the Apollo 14 mission and a backup pilot for the first manned Skylab mission, before serving as mission specialist on two space shuttle missions.
The US space agency did not give the cause of death on Thursday for the longtime resident of the western state of Colorado.
With a jetpack, McCandless travelled 100m (328ft) from the Space Shuttle.
“That may have been one small step for Neil, but it’s a heck of a big leap for me,” he joked, adapting astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous moon-landing line.
Armstrong’s words were in fact relayed to McCandless, who was in mission control for the moon landing in 1969.
Photo of Bruce soaring effortlessly in space has inspired generations of Americans to believe that there is no limit to the human potential,” said Senator John McCain, who was a classmate of McCandless at the US Naval Academy.
1984 McCandless first flew to space, at the age of 46, but his untethered flight captured the imagination of a public that was becoming accustomed to space flight.
McCandless orbited at 18,000mph (29,000km/h), using a hefty jet pack to propel himself away from and then back towards the Space Shuttle.
Armstrong’s words were in fact relayed to McCandless, who was in mission control for the moon landing in 1969. His voice was recorded in those era-defining moments, communicating with Armstrong and his fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins as they planted the US flag on the moon. “Oh, it’s beautiful, Mike. It really is,” he said over the radio.
McCandless had over the years been involved with the design and development of the jet pack that allowed him to fly alone, and over the radio from space he told mission control “we sure have a nice flying machine here” BBC report”.
The son and grandson of decorated war heroes, he graduated near the top of his class at the US Naval Academy. In the navy, he learned to pilot at least nine different aircraft, rising to the rank of captain.