Alexei Leonov, first human to walk in space, dies aged 85

Sunday, 13 Oct, 2019

Leonov, a two-time Hero of the Soviet Union and the eleventh Soviet cosmonaut, made his 12-minute spacewalk on 18 March 1965, as part of the Voskhod 2 mission.

During his second space voyage on July 15-21, 1975, Leonov, the commander of the crew, participated in the first-ever global docking of the Soviet Union's Soyuz-19 spacecraft and the United States' Apollo-18. 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.

"One of the first cosmonauts of the world space era, Alexei Leonov was committed to his Motherland and his cause, his name is lettered in gold in the world space exploration history", Roscosmos said.

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 worldwide space community, providing inspiration for future astronauts of many nations.

NASA paid tribute to Leonov on Friday.

"A tribute to Leonov as today is a spacewalk", NASA Mission Control in Houston said. "Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov, artist, leader, spacewalker and friend, I salute you". 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 was one of the two cosmonauts to participate in the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP).

Soyuz-Apollo was the first Soviet-American joint space mission in history.

"Putin always admired Leonov's courage and thought he was an extraordinary man", Peskov told Russian news agencies.

Leonov was also known as an author and painter, with some of his works used on Soviet postage stamps.

"It's a huge tragedy for us all", stated the spouse of cosmonaut Boris Volynov, Tamara Volynova, who wrote a guide about cosmonauts.

He also helped USA astronaut Tom Stafford adopt two Russian boys.

His funeral will be held October 15 at Mytishchi Military Memorial cemetery outside Moscow.