CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The first man to fly freely and untethered in space, famously photographed alone in the cosmic blackness above a blue Earth (search), was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Retired astronaut Bruce McCandless (search) became the first so-called human satellite in 1984. The dramatic scene of McCandless flying with a hefty spacewalker's jetpack, but with his face invisible behind his helmet, remains one of the greatest space photos of all time.
"For those of you who work here or have worked here at the Kennedy Space Center, I have a few words: thank you, thank you and thank you," McCandless, 67, told the hundreds gathered for the afternoon ceremony.
His shuttle commander, former astronaut Vance Brand (search), said he was glued to the window as McCandless jetted around outside. "I knew I couldn't come back and tell Bernice that we'd lost Bruce," Brand said, referring to McCandless' wife of almost 45 years.
McCandless helped develop the jetpack, known by NASA as the manned maneuvering unit, and was later part of the shuttle crew that delivered the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit 15 years ago this past week.
Two other former shuttle astronauts were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday: Joseph Allen, 67, who used the jetpack later in 1984 to grab a pair of stranded satellites for salvaging, and Gordon Fullerton, 68, an early shuttle pilot who still flies research aircraft for NASA.
The crowd included 18 astronauts already enshrined in the Hall of Fame, three of them moonwalkers.