Bruce McCandless II (born June 8, 1937), (Capt, USN, Ret.), is a former American naval officer and aviator, electrical engineer, and former NASA astronaut. During the first of his two Space Shuttle missions he made the first ever untethered free flight using the Manned Maneuvering Unit in 1984.

Early life and educationEdit

McCandless was born June 8, 1937, in Boston, Massachusetts. A third generation U.S. Navy officer, McCandless is the son of Bruce McCandless, and grandson of Willis W. Bradley, both decorated war heroes. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, Long Beach, California, in 1954. With his father having been awarded the Medal of Honor, McCandless was assured of being appointed to a military academy.

In 1958 he received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy, followed by a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1965. In 1987 he received a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Houston–Clear Lake.

United States NavyEdit

McCandless graduated second in a class of 899 from the U.S. Naval Academy (Class of 1958), along with John McCain and John Poindexter. Subsequently, he received flight training from the Naval Air Training Command at bases in Pensacola, Florida, and Kingsville, Texas.

In March 1960 he was designated a Naval Aviator and proceeded to Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, for weapons system and carrier landing training in the F-6A Skyray.

Between December 1960 and February 1964 he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 102 (VF-102), flying the Skyray and the F-4B Phantom II. He saw duty aboard USS Forrestal and USS Enterprise, including the latter's participation in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For three months in early 1964, he was an instrument flight instructor in Attack Squadron 43 (VA-43) at NAS Oceana, Virginia and then reported to the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Unit at Stanford University for graduate studies in Electrical Engineering.

During Naval service he gained flying proficiency in the T-33B Shooting Star, T-38A Talon, F-4B Phantom II, F-6A Skyray, F-11 Tiger, F-9 Cougar, T-1 Seastar, and T-34B Mentor airplane, and the Bell 47G helicopter.

He logged more than 5,200 hours flying time—5,000 hours in jet aircraft.

NASA careerEdit

McCandless was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He was a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 14 mission, served as CAPCOM during the Apollo 11 mission when Neil Armstrong first set his foot on the Moon (during the EVA), and was backup pilot for the first manned Skylab mission (SL-1/SL-2). He was a co-investigator on the M-509 astronaut maneuvering unit experiment which was flown in the Skylab Program, and collaborated on the development of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) used during Shuttle extravehicular activities (EVAs).

He was responsible for crew inputs to the development of hardware and procedures for the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), Space Telescope, the Solar Maximum Repair Mission, and the Space Station Program.

McCandless logged over 312 hours in space, including four hours of MMU flight time. He flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-41-B and STS-31.

Spaceflight experienceEdit


Main article: STS-41-B
Bruce McCandless II during EVA in 1984

This famous image shows McCandless using the MMU during STS-41-B in 1984

Challenger launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on February 3, 1984. The flight deployed two communications satellites, and flight-tested rendezvous sensors and computer programs for the first time.

This mission marked the first checkout of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) and Manipulator Foot Restraint (MFR). McCandless made the first untethered free flight on each of the two MMUs carried on board, thereby becoming the first person ever to make an untethered spacewalk.

After eight days in orbit, Challenger made the first landing on the runway at Kennedy Space Center on February 11, 1984.


Main article: STS-31

On this five-day Discovery flight, launched on April 24, 1990 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the crew deployed the Hubble Space Telescope from their record-setting altitude of 380 miles (612 km).

Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on April 29, 1990.


He is a fellow of the American Astronautical Society and former president of the Houston Audubon Society.

Awards and honorsEdit

He was awarded a patent for the design of a tool tethering system that is currently used during Shuttle spacewalks.[citation needed]



Bruce McCandless, February 2009

McCandless was married to Bernice Doyle McCandless for 53 years, and the couple had two grown children: Bruce III (born August 15, 1961) and Tracy (born July 13, 1963). His recreational interests include electronics, photography, scuba diving, and flying. He also enjoys cross country skiing.

On August 2005 Smithsonian magazine article about the photo quoted McCandless saying that the subject's anonymity is its best feature. "I have the sun visor down, so you can't see my face, and that means it could be anybody in there. It's sort of a representation not of Bruce McCandless, but mankind."[1]

On September 30, 2010, McCandless launched a lawsuit against British singer Dido for unauthorized use of a photo of his 1984 space flight for the album art of her 2008 album Safe Trip Home, which showed McCandless “free flying” about 320 feet away from the Space Shuttle Challenger.[2] The lawsuit - which also named Sony Corp.’s Sony Music Entertainment and Getty Images Inc. as defendants - does not allege copyright infringement, only infringement of his persona.[3][4] This action was settled amicably on January 14, 2011.[5]

McCandless wrote the foreword to the Apogee Books publication, Live TV From Orbit (ISBN 978-1926837-28-4), by Dwight Steven-Boniecki, released in 2014.

Physical descriptionEdit

  • Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
  • Height: 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
  • Hair: Brown
  • Eyes: Blue[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. Footloose, Smithsonian magazine, August 2005; accessed 09/10/2010
  2. "Dido sued by astronaut", MSN News, accessed 04/10/2010
  3. "Astronaut McCandless sues singer Dido over free flying photo", Business Week, accessed 04/10/2010
  5. McCandless v. Sony Music Entertainment et al., Case No. CV10-7323-RGK (C.D. Cal.) (Docket No. 4 [Notice Of Settlement And Dismissal With Prejudice], filed Jan. 14, 2011)
  6. Bruce McCandless' physical description

External linksEdit

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