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Edward Higgins White, II
NASA Astronaut
Status Killed during training
Born November 14, 1930(1930-11-14)
San Antonio, Texas
Died January 27, 1967 (aged 36)
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Other occupation Test pilot
Rank Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
Time in space 4d 01h 56m
Selection 1962 NASA Group
Missions Gemini 4, Apollo 1
Mission insignia Gemini Four patch.jpgApollo 1 patch.png

Edward Higgins White, II (Lt.Col , USAF) (November 14, 1930 – January 27, 1967) was an engineer, 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 along with fellow astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee during a training exercise and pre-launch test for the first Apollo mission at the Kennedy Space Center. White was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and had previously been awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal for his Gemini 4 spaceflight.


Early years

He was born in San Antonio, Texas, where he went to school and also became member of the Boy Scouts of America[1]. After graduation from high school, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he earned his B.S. degree and his second lieutenant's bar in 1952, during the Korean War.[2] Rather than entering the Army, White choose to enter the U.S. Air Force and attend flight school, a course that takes more than a year. After a period of active service as an Air Force pilot, White enrolled the University of Michigan under Air Force sponsorship to study aeronautical engineering, where he earned his Master of Science degree in 1959.

Years later in his Air Force and NASA career, White achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. During his Air Force service he had served most of the time as a fighter pilot in F-86 Sabre and F-100 Super Sabre squadrons. White also attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and he graduated from this school to become a test pilot for the Air Force's Aeronautical Systems Division. In the grand total over his career, White logged more than 3,000 flight hours with the Air Force, including about 2,200 hours in jet airplanes.

White also found the time to court and to marry Patricia Finegan White, and they became the parents of two children, Bonnie Lynn White and Edward White III.

NASA career

Edward White during EVA. During the Gemini 4 mission, White became the first American astronaut to perform a spacewalk.

White was chosen as part of the second group of astronauts in 1962. Within an already elite group, White was considered to be a high-flyer by the management of NASA. As the pilot of Gemini 4, White became the first American to make a walk in space, on June 3, 1965. During this EVA, his extra thermal glove floated away from inside the Gemini spacecraft, which became a piece of space debris in low-earth orbit. It was doubtless incinerated upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere decades ago. White's next assignment after Gemini 4 was as the back-up Command Pilot for Gemini 7, backing up the Commander, Frank Borman.

White was also named the astronaut specialist for the flight control systems of the Apollo Command and Service Modules. By the usual procedure of crew rotation in the Gemini program, White would have been in line for a second orbital flight as the Command Pilot of Gemini 10 — making him the first of his group to be selected to fly twice — but instead was re-routed in 1966 to be the command module pilot for the first fateful Apollo program flight AS-204.


Crew photo, Apollo 1.
Apollo I mission insignia

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. Ed White was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame on July 18, 2009.[3][4]





Many schools have been named in honor of Colonel White:


In Space

  • 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.[15] 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.[11] 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.

Physical description

  • Weight: 176 lb (80 kg)
  • Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
  • Hair: Reddish Brown
  • Eyes: brown

See also


  1. ^ "Astronauts and the BSA". Fact sheet. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved March 20, 2006.  
  2. ^ Prior to the first graduating class from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1959, a certain pecentatge of officers in the U.S. Air Force were drawn from West Point and from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. In any case, the vast majority of officers in the U.S. Armed Forces are educated and trained at the three kinds of R.O.T.C. programs at hundreds of other institutes and universities across the country, including Georgia Tech, Michigan, Purdue Univ., and the Univ. of California.
  3. ^ Kaplan, Ron (December 17, 2008). "National Aviation Hall of Fame reveals names of “Class of 2009” inductees". National Aviation Hall of Fame web site. National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2009-02-16.  
  4. ^ Hannah, James (July 19, 2009). "Ed White, Jimmy Stewart inducted in Aviation Hall". Washington Post.  
  5. ^ "Edward White Elementary Career Academy". Chicago Public Schools. Retrieved July 20, 2009.  
  6. ^ "Edward H. White Middle School". San Antonio, Texas: North East Independent School District. Retrieved July 20, 2009.  
  7. ^ "Ed White Elementary School". Clear Creek ISD. Retrieved July 20, 2009. "Our school opened in 1965 as El Lago Elementary. The name was changed in 1967 to Edward H. White II Elementary in honor of the life and accomplishments of Edward Higgins White II -- the first American to walk in space."  
  8. ^ "Bay Area Charter Schools". Retrieved July 20, 2009.  
  9. ^ "Edward H. White". Duval County Public Schools. Retrieved July 20, 2009.  
  10. ^ "Ed White Middle School". Huntsville (Ala.) City Schools official site.  
  11. ^ a b Jaques, Bob (June 6, 2002). "First spacewalk by American astronaut 37 years ago" (PDF). Marshall Star (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center): p. 5.  
  12. ^ City of Fullerton - List of Parks
  13. ^ Fallen Astronaut
  14. ^ pdf of City of Long Beach Economic Zones
  15. ^ "Gemini Space Walk". Sky Image Lab. Retrieved July 20, 2009.  

External links


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