First man to conduct spacewalk, Alexei Leonov, dies aged 85

Cheryl Sanders
October 12, 2019

Alexei #Leonov, a decorated Russian veteran #cosmonaut and the first man to have carried out a #spacewalk back in 1965, passed away in Moscow at the age of 85.

His assistant, Ms Natalia Filimonova, told AFP that Mr Leonov died at Moscow's Burdenko hospital after a long illness.

But Leonov staked his place in space history ten years earlier, on March 18, 1965, when he exited his Voskhod 2 space capsule secured by a tether. He was a friend of Yuri Gagarin, who became the first man in space in 1961 and trained with him.

Leonov flew a second time in 1975, when he was the commander of the Soviet half of the landmark Apollo-Soyuz test project, the first Russian-American joint space mission.

Leonov recounted the handsome and harrowing experience of his spacewalk mission in the book Two Sides of the Moon, co-written with NASA Apollo astronaut David Scott.

"We had this tradition that he would give cosmonauts pep talks before they board the spacecraft", Kononenko said.

In 1975, Leonov took part in the historic Soyuz-Apollo spaceflight which, put an end to the "space race" between the USA and Soviet Union.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday relayed the Russian president's condolences for Leonov's family, saying that Vladimir Putin and the cosmonaut knew each other well. "Putin always admired Leonov's courage".

"His venture into the vacuum of space began the history of extravehicular activity that makes today's Space Station maintenance possible", NASA said on Twitter.

Leonov became a legend at home and his feats were immortalised in cinema and literature.

NASA broke into its live televised coverage of a spacewalk by two Americans outside the International Space Station to report Leonov's death.

Leonov was an accomplished artist and writer and his contemporaries described him as warm and likable.

"It's a huge tragedy for us all", said the wife of cosmonaut Boris Volynov, Ms Tamara Volynova, who wrote a book about cosmonauts.

He helped many cosmonauts and was a "great storyteller", space historian Alexander Glushko said.

Roscosmos said Leonov would be buried Tuesday at a military memorial cemetery outside Moscow.

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