Alexei Leonov, the first human to walk in space, has died. Relive his historic spacewalk through archival footage.
On October 11, Alexei Leonov passed away at age 86. Leonov was the first human being in history to spend time in outer space outside of a spacecraft. He was selected to join the very first group of Soviet cosmonauts in 1960 and made his first flight on the Voskhod-2 spaceship five years later. Here’s how Leonov’s historic mission, led by team commander Pavel Belyayev, played out on film.
An hour and a half after takeoff on March 18, 1965, Leonov exited his team’s spacecraft and spent 12 minutes in open space. The official newsreels of the spacewalk reported the cosmonaut’s triumphant mission without mentioning several unexpected glitches that occurred both in orbit and during the crew’s descent back to Earth.
A color film recording of the spacewalk appeared soon afterward.
One unplanned episode occurred when the cosmonauts realized that in order to return to their spacecraft’s interior, Leonov would have to release the air that had inflated in his spacesuit while he was outside the Voskhod-2. Leonov also went into the reentry chamber headfirst rather than feet first as the team had planned, forcing him to turn upside down in the reentry chamber before getting back into the ship. Leonov later said he did not report those problems back to Earth.
Nonetheless, a NASA documentary released to mark the 50th anniversary of Leonov’s spacewalk detailed the complications he overcame during the mission in full.
The autopilot system on the Voskhod-2 later malfunctioned, forcing the cosmonauts to land the craft manually. The crew landed in the taiga in the north of what is now Russia’s Perm region. They were found only four hours later, but archival footage shows a celebratory mood at the landing site.
In 2017, a film called Vremya Pervykh (The Age of Pioneers) was released in Russia to depict Leonov’s spacewalk for the contemporary masses. The cosmonaut himself acted as a consultant for the film and helped its creators fine-tune the details of his spacewalk. Vremya Pervykh can be viewed for free on Yandex.Efir or rented on YouTube.
Cover photo: TopFoto / Scanpix / LETA