It was on this day in 1965, that cosmonaut Alexey Leonov crawled out of his Voskhod 3KD 1 spacecraft and performed humankind’s first spacewalk.
Alexey Leonov stepped into uncharted territory on that historic day, marking a milestone in human exploration. While it wasn’t immediately publicized 2, Leonov’s 12-minute-9-second spacewalk skirted on the edge of disaster.
Once Leonov entered the vacuum of space, his spacesuit become inflated and maneuverability suffered. The real trouble began as Leonov tried re-entering the Voskhod 2 craft, and became stuck in the the hatch due to the inflated suit. He was forced to partially depressurize his suit in order to fit through the hatch, putting himself at great risk of suffering decompression sickness, known as ‘the bends’.
While the spacewalk and a number of other elements of the mission lingered on the verge of catastrophe, this was a time when survival equated to success.
American astronauts followed suit soon after, as they crawled out of their Gemini capsules to experience the same joy and danger Leonov experienced (Gene Cernan’s Gemini spacewalk was also a close-call). We’ve come a long way since those baby-steps into space, with now over 200 humans having walked in space.
So, to General Leonov, I offer a belated congratulations and thank you for pushing against the boundaries of the final frontier.
*This post originally published on March 18, 2011.*
- The mission was Voskhod 2, the craft was Voskhod 3KD ↩
- The Soviets originally claimed the spacewalk went off without a hitch, and that Leonov was “feeling well both during his period outside the cabin and after he re-entered the spacecraft” ↩