On June 3, 1965, NASA launched Gemini 4, the second manned space mission in Project Gemini. Over the next four days, astronauts James McDivitt and Edward White circled the Earth 66 times. The highlight of the mission, however, occurred on the third revolution. At 7:46 PM UTC, White exited the spacecraft to perform the first American extravehicular activity. (Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov performed the first ever space walk in March 1965.) This NASA government film focuses on the historic feat, with White providing narration over footage of his 20-minute journey into open space.
NASA astronaut Edward Higgins White II was born on November 14, 1930, in San Antonio, Texas. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1952. He was subsequently commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. After a tour of duty in West Germany, White returned to the United States to earn a Master of Science degree in astronautical engineering from the University of Michigan.
White began his career with NASA in September 1962 when he was selected to join the second group of astronauts, known as the New Nine. On June 3, 1965, he embarked on what was to be his first and only space mission: Gemini 4, during which White became the first American to "walk" in space. In total, he logged 97 hours and 56 minutes in space, of which 20 minutes were spent in extravehicular activity.
In 1966, White was selected as Senior Pilot for the first manned Apollo flight, Apollo 1. During pre-launch testing on January 27, 1967, a fire broke out in the Command Module with White and his two crew members, Virgil Grissom and Roger Chaffee, fully suited and strapped into their benches. All three men died in the blaze. In 1997, White was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.