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Astronaut Don Peterson, who performed first shuttle spacewalk, dead at 84

STS-6, astronauts Don Peterson (right) and Story Musgrave to perform the first shuttle-era spacewalk outside Challenger in 1983. (Credit: NASA)

Astronaut Donald Peterson, one of the first astronauts to perform a spacewalk of space shuttle, died on Sunday at age 84.

Peterson’s death was first reported by the Association of Space Explorers, who noted his death on her Facebook page.

“So sad to report that we have lost another member of the astronaut family,” the post reads. “Fair skies and tailwinds, Don.”

Peterson joined NASA in September 1969, two years after the us Air Force chose him to be a part of the planned Manned Spacecraft Laboratory (MOL). The mission was eventually cancelled, which led Peterson and the other members of the accession to the government space agency.

“You might think that there is a lot of— I mean, a bunch of screening and testing and all that. As far as I know, there was no,” Peterson said, according to CollectSpace.com by means of Space.com. “There were fourteen people who crew on the MOL program, and they took the seven youngest people.”

Born in Winona, MS, Peterson is enrolled at the United States Military Academy in West Point, where he graduated in 1955. From there, he joined the air force, where he was second lieutenant, but it took 14 years to finally fly in space, is named for the virgin of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger.

The Challenger was the first flight between April 4 and 9, 1983, led by STS-6 commander Paul Weitz. The shuttle undertook 10 missions, the last one was the ill-fated mission STS-51-L mission on Jan. 28, 1986 that took the lives of all seven crew members, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, when it exploded just 73 seconds into its flight.

Three days in the first Challenger mission, Peterson and fellow mission specialist Story Musgrave made history, and became the first astronauts wear Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) space suits and go for a spacewalk.

“That was fun,” Peterson recalled, according to CollectSpace.

During the 4-hour, 10-minute extravehicular activity, the two astronauts connected tethers their fits and works with the holder that supported the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, the first of its kind to start. They used a key to manually lower after it was tilted forward to implement.

“We had to foot restraints, but it took so long to set them up and move them around, that we don’t want to do that. So I held on with one hand, actually a piece of sheet metal, that is not the best way to hold, and cranked the key with my other hand, and my legs floated behind me,” Peterson said. “If I bent, my legs were swinging to and fro, like a swimmer, to react the load on the key.”

By the movements of the waist ring on the Peterson’s space, and rotated, and the seal that kept air tight popped out, allowing Peterson to say he had an alarm.

“The story stopped what he was doing and came over. We are trying to check what was going on and the seal popped back in place and the leak stopped, so we went ahead and finished the EVA,” Peterson said.

Peterson eventually resigned from NASA in November 1984, after he had a total of 5 days, 23 minutes and 42 seconds in space, 2.1 million miles. STS-6 was his only spaceflight.

From there, Peterson has consulted and worked with manned spaceflight operations, before you stop working in 1993.

He is survived by his son, Don, two daughters, Jean and Shari, and his brother Gil. His wife, Bonnie Ruth Love, has died in 2017.

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