Photo of astronaut floating above Earth is real

23 June 2022
What was claimed

A picture of an untethered astronaut floating in space is fake.

Our verdict

The photo is real and was taken by NASA crew during the first ever untethered space walk, carried out by astronaut Bruce McCandless II in 1984.

A post on Facebook claims that a picture of an astronaut, untethered from a space shuttle and hovering above Earth, is fake. 

While the picture may seem hard to believe, it is a real photo published by NASA.

It shows astronaut Bruce McCandless II reaching his furthest point from the Challenger space shuttle during the first ever untethered space walk, described by NASA as an “extravehicular activity [activity outside the spacecraft]”, in 1984. 

The photo was taken by crew also on the space flight, alongside a video of the event. Mr McCandless undertook the space walk in order to test what is known as a Manned Manoeuvring Unit, essentially a jetpack which allows astronauts to direct themselves in space while outside a spacecraft. 

Mr McCandless, who died in 2017, gave a number of interviews about his experiences during the space walk. 

As other fact checkers such as AP have written, manipulated versions of the iconic photo have been shared online in the past. 

Images and news stories shared by NASA are often the subject of false online claims and conspiracy theories, which we have written about in the past

Image courtesy of NASA

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because the picture is real, and was taken by NASA crew during the first ever untethered space walk in 1984.

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