Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, first person to walk in space, dies at 85

Alexei Leonov in Moscow in 2010

Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first person to conduct a spacewalk, passed away on 11 October, aged 85.

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

The short foray, a significant advance in the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, was no easy task, and not without its mishaps. Ed White, who floated free of Gemini 4 later that same year.

The outing was stressful for Leonov whose space suit filled with air to the point where he struggled to get back into his spacecraft.

Leonov flew again in 1975 during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, commanding a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft that docked with the last American Apollo capsule, which was under the command of astronaut Donald "Deke" Slayton.

British astronaut Tim Peake said Mr Leonov was "a hero to so many, pioneer of spacewalking and always full of wisdom and humour".


Alexei Leonov was born on May 30, 1934, in Listvyanka village.

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

The future cosmonaut had a strong artistic bent and even thought about going to art school before he enrolled in a pilot training course and, later, an aviation college.

Leonov had also been selected as the first Soviet person to land on the Moon, before that mission was cancelled. Three months earlier, cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the world's first female spacewalker. Leonov's two space flights totaled just over seven days in orbit.

Russian space fans were bringing flowers to his monument Friday on the memorial alley in honour of Russia's cosmonauts in Moscow.

A visitation will be held in Leonov's honor in Moscow on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

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