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The National Space Society Mourns the Passing of Alexi Leonov, The First Spacewalker

Alexi Leonov during his spacewalk on March 18, 1965.

Pioneering Soviet Cosmonaut Risked His Life in Space, Participated in First International Cooperation in Space

Alexi Leonov was one of the greats in spaceflight. His early exploits in space set the stage for later accomplishments by both the Soviet Union and the United States.”
— Bruce Pittman, Senior Operating Officer of the National Space Society

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES, October 11, 2019 / -- Former Soviet cosmonaut Alexi Leonov, A Space Age pioneer and the first human to perform an extravehicular activity, or spacewalk, died today, October 11, at the age of 85.

As part of the early cadre of Soviet cosmonauts, Leonov exited his Voskhod 2 spacecraft, co-piloted by Pavel Belyayev, on March 18, 1965. Using a primitive inflatable airlock, the first of its kind, he stayed outside the orbiting craft for just over 12 minutes. When it was time to reenter the Voskhod capsule, he realized that his pressure suit had become over-inflated, and had to bleed air from a small valve to return, an extremely dangerous procedure.

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. The two remained lifelong friends after the mission, and Apollo-Soyuz set the stage for later cooperation between the two Cold War superpowers in the subsequent Shuttle-Mir program and the International Space Station. That cooperation in space has continued, despite challenges in international politics, to this day aboard the ISS.

Besides his pioneering role in the early space program of the Soviet Union, Leonov was an accomplished artist and was considered an elder statesman in the international space community, providing inspiration for future astronauts of many nations.

“Alexi Leonov was one of the greats in spaceflight,” said Bruce Pittman, Senior Operating Officer of the NSS. “His early exploits in space set the stage for later accomplishments by both the Soviet Union and the United States. He will be missed by those who knew him, and the NSS mourns his passing, extending condolences to the Russian spaceflight community.”

Aggie Kobrin
National Space Society
+1 949-552-7556
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