The USSR was the first to accomplish many achievements in space exploration, including one that mourns the loss of one of their cosmonauts. In this article, you will encounter the men who participated in the first dual mission for the United States, as well as the first walk in space completed by Americans.
First U.S. Mission with Two Men
Before John Young and Virgil “Gus” Grissom from the United States traveled into space, only single-man missions existed for the Americans. Young and Grissom became the first to complete a two-man mission, as they traveled aboard the Gemini 3 spacecraft. This mission took place on March 23, 1865.
In addition to being an astronaut, John Young was also a test pilot, naval officer, and aeronautical engineer who later became the ninth person to walk on the Moon when he commanded the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. Young retired from NASA in 2004.
Gus Grissom was one of the original NASA Project Mercury astronauts, as well as a pilot for the United States Air Force. He became the second American to fly in space and the first NASA astronaut to fly into space twice. Sadly, Grissom died at the age of 40 when he was killed during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that also took the lives of fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee. His death marked the first of the Mercury Seven to die.
First Spacewalk for the United States
On June 3, 1965, Edward White II made a spacewalk from the Gemini 4 spacecraft that lasted 36 minutes. He became the first American to do so. The experience of walking in space was such a thrill that he lingered longer than his allotted time. He had to be ordered back into the spacecraft. During his time in space, a spare thermal glove floated away through the open hatch of the spacecraft , becoming one of the first pieces of space debris in low-earth orbit. The glove eventually burned up during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. In his career, White was also an officer of the United States Air Force and an engineer. White died along with fellow astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee during a pre-launch test for the first manned Apollo mission.
First Death in Space
On April 24, 1967, Vladimir Komarov from the USSR died in space when his parachute got tangled and his capsule crash landed. His death came after 18 orbits in Soyuz 1.
In addition to being a cosmonaut, Komarov was also a test pilot and aerospace engineer for the Soviets. He was amongst the first group of cosmonauts selected in 1960 to explore space , called one of the most highly experienced and well-qualified out of all the candidates.
Interestingly, Komarov was declared medically unfit for training or spaceflight two times while in the program, but he was determined to play a stronger role. His skill and knowledge as an engineer allowed him to still have an opportunity to explore space. However, he was chosen to command the Soyuz 1 spacecraft in hopes of helping the Soviet Union to reach the Moon first. His spaceflight on Soyuz 1 made him the first cosmonaut to fly into outer space more than one time. He also became the first human to die during a spaceflight when the Soyuz 1 space capsule crashed after re-entry.