On March 18th, 1965, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made history by becoming the first person to walk in space. Leonov left his spacecraft, the Voskhod 2, and floated in space for 12 minutes and 9 seconds. The first spacewalk paved the way for future space exploration and opened up new possibilities for scientific research in space.
The Soviets made the first spacewalk
The spacewalk was a remarkable achievement for the Soviet space program, which was in competition with the United States at the time to achieve milestones in space exploration. The mission was not without its challenges, however. Leonov’s space suit had inflated in the vacuum of space, making it difficult for him to move and causing him to experience overheating.
Despite these challenges, Leonov successfully completed his spacewalk and returned to the spacecraft, where he faced another problem. The spacecraft’s automatic landing system had failed, and Leonov and his crewmate had to manually steer the spacecraft to a safe landing.
Since Leonov’s historic feat, many other astronauts and cosmonauts have followed in his footsteps (or rather, lack of footsteps). Here are some quirky facts about spacewalking:
- The longest spacewalk in history was conducted by Russian cosmonauts in 2013. They spent 8 hours and 7 minutes outside the International Space Station.
- Spacewalks are often referred to as “EVA,” which stands for “extravehicular activity.”
- Spacewalkers wear special suits called Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs). These are designed to protect them from the extreme conditions of space.
- During a spacewalk, astronauts and cosmonauts tether themselves to the spacecraft to prevent them from floating away into space.
- The first American to conduct a spacewalk was Ed White in 1965, just a few months after Leonov’s historic walk.
- In 1984, American astronaut Bruce McCandless made history. He became the first person to fly freely in space without being tethered to a spacecraft.
- The first all-female spacewalk took place in 2019. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir conducted a 7-hour walk to replace a failed power controller.
As space exploration continues to advance, it’s likely that we’ll see even more remarkable achievements in spacewalking. But Alexei Leonov’s historic spacewalk on March 18th, 1965 opened up a new world of possibilities for space exploration.
Source: “The First Spacewalk” — New Scientist