This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

A Walk on the Wild Side

Alexei Leonov, Soviet cosmonaut

March 18, 1965:

First Walk In Space

Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov, leaving his spacecraft Voskhod 2 for 12 minutes, becomes the first person to walk in space.

Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov born 30 May 1934 in Listvyanka, Kemerovo Oblast, Soviet Union is a retired Soviet/Russian cosmonaut and Air Force Major General who, on 18 March 1965, became the first human to conduct an extra-vehicular activity (EVA), also known as a space walk.

He was outside the spacecraft for 12 minutes and nine seconds on 18 March 1965, connected to the craft by a 5.35-meter tether. At the end of the spacewalk, Leonov’s spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter the airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit’s pressure to bleed off, and was barely able to get back inside the capsule. Leonov had spent some eighteen months undergoing intensive weightlessness training for the mission.

Voskhod2

As they had with the first satellite and first man in space, the Soviets again stunned the world on March 18, 1965 with the first EVA.  Leonov had no means to control his motion other than pulling on his 50.7-foot (15.5 m) tether. After the flight, he claimed this was easy, but his space suit ballooned from its internal pressure against the vacuum of space, stiffening so much that he could not activate the shutter on his chest-mounted camera.

Leonov is an accomplished artist whose published books include albums of his artistic works and works he did in collaboration with his friend Andrei Sokolov. Leonov took coloured pencils and paper into space, where he sketched the Earth and drew portraits of the Apollo astronauts who flew with him during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

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Arthur C. Clarke wrote in his notes to 2010: Odyssey Two that, after a 1968 screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Leonov pointed out to him that the alignment of the Moon, Earth, and Sun shown in the opening is essentially the same as that in Leonov’s 1967 painting Near the Moon, although the painting’s diagonal framing of the scene was not replicated in the film. Clarke kept an autographed sketch of this painting—which Leonov made after the screening, hanging on his office wall.

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2001: A Space Odyssey

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Leonov’s painting Near the Moon (1967)

In 2004, Leonov and former American astronaut David Scott began work on a dual biography / history of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Titled Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race, it was published in 2006. Neil Armstrong and Tom Hanks both wrote introductions to the book.

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2 thoughts on “A Walk on the Wild Side

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