First man to conduct spacewalk, Alexei Leonov, dies

Mural with Alexei Leonov (Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov) portrait wearing space helmet is seen in Kaliningrad, Russia, on 8 September 2019 Leonov is the first man to walk in space, and honorary citizen of Kaliningrad. On 18.03.1965, he became the first human to conduct extravehicular activity (EVA), exiting the capsule during the Voskhod 2 mission for a 12-minute spacewalk. (Photo by Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov, the Soviet mission Commander on the joint US-USSR Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, holding his drawing of Apollo mission Commander Thomas P Stafford, during the mission, July 1975. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)

Alexei Leonov, a Soviet-era cosmonaut and the first man to conduct a spacewalk in 1965 died in Moscow on Friday aged 85, says the Russia Space Agency Roscosmos.

“He died today in Moscow at the Burdenko hospital after a long illness,” his assistant Natalia Filimonova told AFP.

Roscosmos said it was saddened to announce the death of “cosmonaut No 11” who was twice decorated with the country’s top honor, the Hero of the Soviet Union.

Leonov performed his historic spacewalk on March 18, 1965, when he exited his Voskhod 2 capsule, secured by a tether. It lasted 12 minutes and nine seconds.

On his second space trip ten years later, Leonov commanded the Soviet half of the Apollo-Soyuz 19 mission. This was the first joint space mission between the Soviet Union and the United States taking place at the peak of the Cold War.

He was also a close friend of Yury Gagarin who became the first human in space in 1961.

Russian crew-members on the International Space Station ventured into open space on a planned spacewalk with stickers attached on their suits as a tribute to him days after the cosmonaut turned 85 in May.

Roscosmos said Leonov would be buried Tuesday at a military memorial cemetery outside Moscow.

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