This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

A Walk on the Wild Side

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March 18, 1965: Man Walks in Space

Imagine floating in space. On this day in 1965, Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov left his spacecraft, Voskhod 2, for 12 minutes. As they had with the first satellite and first man in space, the Soviets again stunned the world with the first EVA, extra-vehicular activity.

Alexei A. Leonov

Alexei A. Leonov

He was outside the spacecraft for 12 minutes and 9 seconds connected to the craft by a 5.35 meter tether. At the end of the spacewalk Leonov’s spacesuit had inflated so much in the vacuum of space that he couldn’t reenter the airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit’s pressure to bleed off and was barely able to get back into the capsule. Close call.

Leonov had no means to control his motion other than pulling on his tether. After the flight, he claimed it was easy, but his space suit ballooned and stiffening so much that he could not activate the shutter on his chest-mounted camera.

The image is a still from the external movie camera attached to his vessel

The image is a still from the external movie camera attached to his vessel

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 colored 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.

Alexei Drawing

Alexei Drawing

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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Leonov’s 1967 painting Near the Moon next to Clarke’s Opening shot

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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“Leonov and Scott have gone to extra lengths to explain the inexplicable in Two Sides of the Moon. And thank goodness they have. Theirs was a gamble taken voluntarily and eagerly with the single-minded pursuit of earning the assignment and then getting the job done. Sometimes they were first. Often they were best. Always they were colorful. And yet each time they returned, neither man claimed to have come back a changed man who had gone into space and seen the spirit of the universe. They came back from their missions in space having seen the spirit of themselves as even more of the human beings they were before leaving our world of air, land, and water…. Leonov, the artist and Scott, the engineer/dreamer. The two of them-the Cheaters of Death.”

– Tom Hanks, from the Introduction

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