Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov was the first human to walk in space over 54 years ago on March 18, 1965. He was secured to the Voskhod 2 Capsule by a tether and walked all over it to cement his legacy. His second trip to space was 10 years later when he commanded the Russian half of the Apollo-Soyuz mission.
Here’s what Alexei has to say about his experience in outer space, “I stepped into that void and I didn’t fall in. The mesmerizing stars filled up the skies. They were everywhere, above, below, to my left, and to my right. I could hear my own breath and heartbeat in that silence.”
Many people don’t know that Alexei almost didn’t make it back into his space vessel because, in the vacuum of space, his spacesuit ballooned up too much to be able to fit through the hatch. The US played catch up only three months later and launched their own astronaut in space, both countries were gridlocked in a space race to the moon.
Leonov received military training before becoming a cosmonaut. He got the “Hero of the Soviet Union” medal – considered to be Russia’s most coveted awards. For his nerve-racking 12 minutes and 9 seconds in space, Alexei even has a small crater on the Moon named after him.
Leonov trained other cosmonauts before retiring in 1992, only a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He started his own business and also worked on his passion for art and writing during his free time.
NASA paid their respects via a statement on Twitter. The tweet reads, “His venture into the vacuum of space began the history of extravehicular activity that makes today’s Space Station maintenance possible.”
Dimitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, said that President Vladimir Putin personally knew and respected Leonov.