Alexei Leonov, 1st person to walk in space, dies at 85

Mr Alexei Leonov, a Soviet-era cosmonaut who was the first man to conduct a spacewalk in 1965, died in Moscow on Friday (Oct 11) aged 85 after a long illness. Russian media earlier reported that Leonov had had health issues for several years.

Leonov's pioneering spacewalk marked a crucial step for the development of moon landing programs and the International Space Station.

"A tribute to Leonov today is a spacewalk", Mission Control in Houston said.

Commander of the Soviet crew of Soyuz, Alexei Leonov (L) and commander of the American crew of Apollo, Thomas Stafford (R), shake hands 17 July 1975 in the space, somewhere over Western Germany, after the Apollo-Soyuz docking maneuvers.

Four years later Leonov made history when he left a spacecraft during the Voskhod 2 mission for a spacewalk that lasted 12 minutes and nine seconds.

During the mission, his spacesuit filled with air to the point where he struggled to get back into the spacecraft.

Leonov's 12-minute spacewalk preceded the first US spacewalk, by Ed White, by less than three months.


Leonov also was the Russian commander of the Apollo-Soyuz joint space mission in 1975, a prelude to the worldwide cooperation seen aboard the current space station. The mission is credited with kick-starting eventual worldwide cooperation aboard the global Space Station.

The cosmonaut turned 85 in May.

Two NASA astronauts are now outside the International Space Station on the second of several planned spacewalks to replace batteries affixed to the outside of the spacecraft.

Leonov, who will be buried on Tuesday at a military memorial cemetery outside Moscow, is survived by his wife, a daughter and two grandchildren.

"They knew each other very well", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

NASA on Friday offered its sympathies to Leonov's family, saying it was saddened by his death.

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