Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Edward H. White II clearly wasn't anxious to end his experience as the first U.S. astronaut to walk in space, as The Post reported on June 4, 1965. He was linked to the Gemini 4 spacecraft by a 26-foot cord and controlled his movements using a handheld rocket gun filled with gas. White, Virgil Grissom and Roger Chafee died almost two years later when a flash fire swept through their Apollo spacecraft. An excerpt:
By Howard Simons
Washington Post Staff Writer
CAPE KENNEDY, Fla., June 3 --
American Astronaut Edward White turned his planned space walk into a minor marathon yesterday, causing his co-Astronaut James A. McDivitt and ground-based officials to plead, cajole and finally order him back into the Gemini space capsule.
White spent roughly twice the time in space that was planned and in those 23 minutes flew across most of the southern United States as millions listened on television and radio to his sometimes inaudible conversation with McDivitt and McDivitt's conversation with Space Agency officials.
After it was apparent that White was spending far too long in space, Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom at Houston, where the flight scene shifted after blastoff, told McDivitt: "The flight director says get back in. Get back in."
Then McDivitt told White: "Don't wear yourself out, get back in...come on in...Ed, come on in here."
Some of this conversation was as colorful as the sights White was viewing. McDivitt, for example, told his companion: "You smeared my windshield, you dirty dog."
There was still more pleading from McDivitt and orders from Houston to get back in.
Shortly thereafter, McDivitt reported that White was having a little trouble getting back in but just what was the trouble was not clear from the conversation relayed here from Houston. But White did succeed in getting back into the capsule and the two astronauts continued on their journey.
Here are the exchanges among Astronauts White and McDivitt and capsule communicator Grissom while White was swimming in space outside the Gemini 4 capsule.
McDivitt: "Tell us what you think."
White: "Looks like we're coming up on the coast of California."
McDivitt: "One thing about it when Ed gets out there and starts wiggling around it sure makes the spacecraft tough to control."
Grissom: "Is he taking pictures?"
McDivitt: "Not yet."
Grissom: "Take some pictures."
White: "Okay, I'm gonna work on getting some pictures now."
McDivitt: "Okay, get out front so I can see you. I've only got about three of them."
McDivitt: "Where are you?"
White: "I'm out front now."
Grissom: "You've got about five minutes."
(White explained to McDivitt he was going to do something, but the transmission was garbled.)
McDivitt: "Do it slowly and I'll take your picture."
(At this point came the pleading for White to get back into the capsule.)
McDivitt: "Come on, let's get back in here before it starts whipping around ...
White: It's the saddest moment of my life.
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com