Edward Higgins White, II
(Lt.Col , USAF) (November 14
– January 27
) was a United States Air Force
officer and a NASA astronaut
. On June 3 1965
, he became the first American to conduct a spacewalk
. White was killed during the Apollo 1
training accident and posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor
and was previously awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal
for his Gemini 4
He was born in San Antonio, Texas
and earned a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy
in 1952, and an M.S. in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan
in 1959. He attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel
in the United States Air Force
and was a pilot of F-86
fighter jets. White was an experimental test pilot for the Aeronautical Systems Division and logged more than 3,000 flight hours, including 2,200 in jet aircraft. He was married to Patricia Finegan White
and had two children, Bonnie Lynn and Edward III.
He was chosen as part of second group of astronauts in 1962. Within an already elite group, White was considered a high-flyer by the NASA management. As pilot of Gemini 4, he was the first American to make a spacewalk (on June 3 1965). During his EVA an extra thermal glove floated away from inside the Gemini spacecraft, which is now a piece of Space Debris. He was later a backup command pilot for Gemini 7.
White was also made Astronaut specialist for the flight control systems of the Apollo CSM. By the usual process of crew rotation in the Gemini program, White would have been in line for a second orbital flight as Command Pilot of Gemini 10 — making him the first of his group to be selected to fly twice — but instead was promoted in 1966 to be command module pilot for the first fateful Apollo program flight AS-204.
He died with fellow astronauts "Gus" Grissom and Roger Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. He was buried with full military honors at West Point Cemetery and in 1997 was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. Grissom and Chaffee are both buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery.
Many schools have been named in honor of Colonel White:
- The star Iota Ursae Majoris was named "Dnoces" ("Second", as in "Edward Higgins White the Second", spelled backwards) in his honor.
- White Hill, 11.2 km (7.0 mi) northwest of Columbia Memorial Station on Mars, is named after him as part of the Apollo 1 Hills.
- Eight months after his death, in September, 1967, a postage stamp was issued by the United States Post Office, commemorating White's space walk, the first-ever by an American. It was the first time in USPO history that the design was actually spread over two stamps (one which featured White, the other his Gemini capsule, the two connected by a tether), which was considered befitting the "twins" aspect of the Gemini mission. White's name did not appear on the stamps.
White in the movies
White was played by Steven Ruge in the 1995 film Apollo 13
and by Chris Isaak
in the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon
Weight: 176 lb (80 kg)
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Hair: Reddish Brown
Edward White II is profiled in the book "Fallen Astronauts" by Colin Burgess and Kate Doolan UNP 2003