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First Human to Walk in Space Is Dead

Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov was 85
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2019 12:00 PM CDT
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Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, on June 14, 2013.   (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
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(Newser) – The first-ever spacewalk had an unexpected snag when Alexei Leonov was unable to get back in his space capsule. As the AP reports, Leonov's suit had ballooned in the vacuum of space so much that he needed to vent oxygen through a valve in his suit in order to fit through the Voskod 2 capsule's hatch. Leonov would live another 54 years until his death in Moscow at age 85, announced by Russia's Roscosmos space agency on Friday, per CNN. During that time, the legendary Soviet cosmonaut saw Ed White become the first American to perform a spacewalk—almost three months after Leonov completed his feat on March 18, 1965.

"I was surrounded by stars" and "it was so quiet I could even hear my heart beat," Leonov later said of the experience, per Space.com. In 1975, the Soviet captain would return to space for the Apollo-Soyuz mission, which he humorously opened by tricking US astronauts into drinking borscht disguised as vodka, per the AP. Later, the cosmonaut who chose flight school over art school drew a picture of a sunset with colored pencils. Thus, "the first piece of art created in space" was born, per CNN. The AP notes NASA interrupted its live coverage of a Thursday spacewalk to report on Leonov's death. However coincidental the timing, the spacewalk was "a tribute to Leonov," Mission Control said. (Read more obituary stories.)

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