Iconic free-flying astronaut passes away at 80

Retired astronaut Bruce McCandless II, the first astronaut to fly untethered from his spacecraft, has died at the age of 80. NASA said McCandless passed away on Thursday in California, but gave no cause of death. The former naval aviator flew in space twice. During a spacewalk in 1984, McCandless tested a hand-controlled maneuvering unit that took him more than 300 feet away from the shuttle Challenger. He jokingly referred to Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk: “That may have been one small step for Neil, but it’s a heck of a big leap for me.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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