During the “space-age,” there was no bigger name than Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov.
Leonov, the first human being to have ever conducted a spacewalk, sadly passed away this week at the age of 85.
Only One First
There can be only one “first time” for anything and Leonov is lucky enough to be someone that was the first in his field. More than five decades ago, Leonov was the first man, make that the first human being, to ever venture outside a space capsule when he conducted the first spacewalk in the history of the world.
On March 18, 1965, four years before the Americans would walk on the moon, he left the safety of his capsule, the Voskhod 2, to walk in space with only a tether to keep him from drifting into the abyss.
Leonov characterized the experience as mesmerizing, astonished that he simply did not fall into the void that is space. What most people do not know about that day, though, is that he was almost unable to get back into his capsule when the walk had concluded.
The spacewalk had caused his suit to expand considerably, making him too big for the capsule opening.
Before he could re-enter his ship, he had to make the bold move of venting oxygen to allow the suit to deflate enough so he could get back inside.
Respected Throughout the World
Leonov is obviously a Russian hero, but it is the respect that was paid to him from around the globe that really lets you know what kind of a man he truly was.
Sentiments have been pouring in from world leaders as well as astronauts from other space programs. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield called him an “artist, leader, spacewalker, and friend.”
NASA credited Leonov with the “extra-vehicular activity that makes today’s Space Station maintenance possible.”
Of course, his fellow cosmonauts also paid tribute to Leonov, sad to know they will no longer be able to hear his inspiring speeches before they head off to space themselves.
Moscow will be rolling out the red carpet for Leonov’s funeral, which will take place on Tuesday. The former Russian cosmonaut is survived by his wife, daughter, and two grandchildren.