Alexei Leonov, the world’s first spacewalker, dies

Alexei LeonovCosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first human being to perform extravehicular activity (or, as it has become more commonly known, a spacewalk) outside his spacecraft, dies at the age of 85. He was among the 20 Soviet Air Force pilots selected to undergo cosmonaut training in 1960, and undertook the historic first spacewalk on March 18th, 1965, aboard the Voskhod 2 mission. He remained outside the vehicle for twelve minutes, but due to his spacesuit inflating with the pressure of his breathing oxygen, he had severe difficulty climbing back into the tunnel that extended from the vehicle itself for his exit, leading mission controllers in Russia to consider the possibility that he might perish without being able to climb back in. He was able to re-enter the Voskhod capsule with considerable effort, and became a favorite among Soviet-era mission planners for the honor of being the first cosmonaut to set foot on the moon, but crewed Soviet lunar missions never came to fruition as the Apollo moon shots took the lead in the space race. Leonov was later selected to lead the Soyuz 19 mission, the Soviet half of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, in 1975. He was also an avid artist who drew and painted many of his own space experiences, as well as those related to him by other astronauts and cosmonauts.