James McDivitt took this extraordinary photograph of Ed White floating freely in outer space from inside the Gemini capsule with a 70mm Hasselblad 500C NASA-modified camera loaded with Eastman Kodak Ektachrome film. It is the first of his series of pictures immortalizing the first American EVA.
Ed White was spacewalking above the blue Earth, right over Hawaii. Before this historic photograph, only a few grainy images showing American astronauts or Russian cosmonauts in their spacecraft had been recorded by on-board movie or TV cameras. The world’s first spacewalk by Alexei Leonov (on Voskhod I, three months before Ed White) had been recorded by a motion picture camera but no still photograph had been taken. Thus this photograph is the first ever still photograph showing a human being in space.
“I took most of these photographs without being able to see what I was shooting at. The Gemini spacecraft was quite small, and I have a very tall sitting height. My head was against the canopy when I wasn’t pressurized, and when I was pressurized I was really crunched up in there and I couldn’t move around much. So I’d take the camera down and look to see where Ed was, and then put the camera up, point in that direction and take the picture. I’m a good pistol and rifle shot. Maybe that helped.”
—James McDivitt (Schick and Van Haaften, pg. 33)
From the mission transcript when the photograph was taken:
Okay. I’m out.
Okay. He’s out. He’s floating free. [...]
All right. Now, I’ve come above the spacecraft and I’m under my own control. [...]
Yes. Okay, I’d better get over. Okay, I’m coming over.
Okay. Stand by.
See me yet?
No, sure don’t.
Oh, there you are. I can spin around now.
Okay. Just a second. You’re right in front, Ed. You look beautiful.
I feel like a million dollars. All right we’ll pitch up and yaw left. I’m coming back to you. [...]
Okay. I put in a little bit too much pitch there.
The gun works real great, Jim.
Let me get over where I can see you, Ed.
Take it easy now. You’re in a vacuum. [...]
Okay. I’ll come in and take a look at you now.
Wait a second. Let me take your picture.