While in orbit 170 miles above Earth on this day in 1984, Bruce McCandless became the first untethered human being in space. The Navy captain exited the U.S. space shuttle Challenger and maneuvered freely, wearing a bulky, white backpack of his own design. With a NASA-developed “maneuverable unit” in the backpack, which supplied nitrogen jet propulsion, McCandless orbited Earth in tandom with the shuttle at speeds greater than 17,500 miles per hour and moved up to 320 feet away from the Challenger.
After an hour and a half of testing, being propelled by the backpack and admiring Earth, McCandless safely re-entered the shuttle. Later that day, Robert Stewart, an Army lieutenant colonel, tried out the device. This was Challenger’s fourth orbital mission, and maneuvering untethered was considered an important step toward being able to repair and service orbiting satellites and to assemble and maintain large space stations.
Bruce McCandless experienced what man always seeks – an untethered existence. We, in our DNA, want to be the captain, the coach, and in so doing take the place of the Christ. It would seem that flying at speeds of 17,500 miles per hour untethered would be dangerous. But far more dangerous is flying through this life untethered to the Christ who is the living God.