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Alexsei A. Leonov

the first man to "walk in space"

Alexsei Leonov

Biographical Data

Born May 30, 1934, in Listvyanka, Siberia.


Graduated from the Soviet Air Force Academy of Arts in Riga then attended Pilot prep school in Kremenchug.

Graduated with honors from the Chuguyev Higher Air Force School in 1957.

Graduated from the Zhukovskiy Air Force Engineering Academy in 1968.

Earned a Candidate of Technical Sciences degree in 1981.

Cosmonaut Career

Leonov was one of the original twenty cosmonauts chosen by the Russian space program in 1960.

His first spaceflight was the Voskhod 2 mission on March 18, 1965. Pavel Belyayev commanded the 26-hour flight and Leonov was the Pilot. During that flight, Leonov left the Voskhod capsule and "walked in space" for more than ten minutes. When he attempted to return to the capsule he could not because the pressure difference between the air in his space suit and the vacuum of space expanded the suit, making it so rigid he could not work his fingers. Eventually he bled some of the air out of the suit and was able to close the lock's outer hatch. By the time Leonov ended his spacewalk it had lasted over twenty minutes. During re-entry the onboard computer for the Voskhod malfunctioned and the capsule landed over 600 miles off course in a remote section of the Ural Mountains. After two days and a cold night in the wilderness the cosmonauts were finally rescued.

Following his historic flight, Leonov became deputy commander of the cosmonaut team, teaching other cosmonauts how to perform extravehicular activities. He was going to be the leader of the first Soviet manned lunar mission, but that mission was cancelled following the Apollo 11 mission. He was assigned to the Salyut 1 mission, but he and his crew were replaced when Copilot Valery Kubasov fell ill.

On July 15, 1975, Leonov and Valery Kubasov lifted off from Baikanor Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard Soyuz 19. The same day, the United States launched an Apollo capsule from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Two days later the two spacecraft docked, allowing the crews to rotate between the two spacecraft and conducted mainly ceremonial activities. Leonov was on the American side for five hours and 43 minutes, while Kubasov spent four hours and 57 minutes in the command and docking modules. The first ever joint Soviet-U. S. space project was known as the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in the United States.

The July 21, 1975, landing of Soyuz 19 ended Leonov's career in space, after a total of 7.02 days in space on his two flights. From 1976 to 1982, he was the commander of the cosmonaut team, and deputy director of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

He retired from government service in 1991 with the rank of Major General in the Soviet Air Force.

Honors and Awards

two Hero of the Soviet Union awards, one for his spacewalk and another for his participation in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
Order of Lenin
Order of the Red Star

Leonov Crater, on the far side of the Moon, is named for him.

European Space Agency
International Space Hall of Fame

Apollo 11

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This page was last updated on 06/19/2018.