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SYFY WIRE obituary

The first man to walk in space, Aleksei Leonov, dead at 85

By Christian Long
Aleksei Leonov

The first man in history to walk in space has passed away at the age of 85.

Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov passed away Friday in Moscow, per a report from the Russian space agency Roscosmos.  Leonov famously risked death when he did the first spacewalk back in 1965, proving that a human being could survive in the vastness of space outside the confines of a craft. He was later awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title twice for his work with their space program.

The spacewalk was the third major defeat for the U.S. during the Space Race during the Cold War, the first being the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the second being Yuri Gagarin's first manned spaceflight in 1961. The U.S. would follow suit about 10 weeks later with Edward H. White II's spacewalk, and only managed to outdo the Russians by being the first to land a man on the moon in 1969.

Leonov chronicled his infamous 10-minute stroll in Life Magazine two months later.

"As far as I can remember, I was concentrating fully, cold-blooded and relatively unexcited," Leonov wrote. "The sight was spectacular! The stars do not blink. The sun seems welded into the black velvet of the sky. The earth alone speeds along."

Aleksei Leonov

The former cosmonaut also took part in a historic linkup between Russian and U.S. spaceships in 1975, which would eventually lead to the creation of the International Space Station. The goodwill mission involved his Soyuz 19 spacecraft docking in orbit with the American Apollo spaceship with three U.S. astronauts aboard. The two groups from then-rival countries traded gifts and conducted scientific experiments for roughly two days, which was seen as a huge leap forward for space exploration.

Born Aleksei Arkhipovich Leonov on May 30, 1934, he was one of 12 children. He's survived by his wife, Svetlana, who worked for Russia’s Cosmonaut Training Center; their daughter, Oksana; and two grandchildren. He's preceded in his death by his daughter, Viktoria.

(via New York Times)

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