First man to conduct spacewalk, Alexei Leonov, dies aged 85

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov who died in Moscow today after an illness

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES, October 11, 2019 /EINPresswire.com/ - 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.

But Leonov staked his place in space history ten years earlier, on March 18, 1965, when he exited his Voskhod 2 space capsule secured by a tether.

Leonov's 12-minute spacewalk preceded the first USA spacewalk, by Ed White, by less than three months.

Days before his 85th birthday in May, two Russian crew members on the International Space Station ventured into open space on a planned spacewalk with stickers attached to their spacesuits paying tribute to Mr Leonov, and congratulated him from space.

His death was announced Friday, Oct. 11, by Roscosmos, Russia's space agency.

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov trains for the Apollo-Soyuz mission in April 1975.

Though not as well known around the world as the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, Leonov was a household name in Russian Federation.

"Alexi Leonov was one of the greats in spaceflight", said Bruce Pittman, Senior Operating Officer of the NSS.

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

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko said Leonov's death was a "loss for the whole planet", while President Vladimir Putin said he admired the astronaut's courage.

After the ASTP, Leonov was chief cosmonaut and later deputy director of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, where he supervised crew training.

Leonov was an accomplished artist and writer and his contemporaries described him as warm and likable.

"It's a huge tragedy for us all", said the wife of cosmonaut Boris Volynov, Ms Tamara Volynova, who wrote a book about cosmonauts.

"Alexei is a unique person", she told AFP.

Leonov will be laid to rest at a cemetery just outside Moscow on Tuesday.

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