Saturday, May 31, 2014

First Man to Walk in Space Celebrates His 80th Birthday

Aleksei Leonov. Credit: Russia-24/

Soviet cosmonaut and first spacewalker in the world, Aleksei Leonov, celebrated his 80th birthday on Friday. In March 1965 he was outside his spaceship for 12 minutes, connected to the craft by a 5.35 meter tether. Later, Leonov commanded the Soviet side of the Apollo-Soyuz mission, the first joint space mission between the Soviet Union and the United States. Leonov is also an accomplished artist, whose works are displayed in many art galleries in Russia and abroad, and an author of several popular books about space. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have congratulated the legendary cosmonaut, who was twice awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title, on his anniversary and wished him good health, happiness and success. “Your professional biography, rich in significant and truly historical events, and all your life is a worthy example of unblinking devotion to the cause and of enormous personal courage,” Putin said in a telegramme, published on the Kremlin website on Friday.

“As a representative of the first legendary team of cosmonauts, you have added one of the brightest and unforgettable chapters to the chronicles of space exploration,” the telegramme said. “You have made an outstanding contribution to developing the country’s aerospace industry and strengthening its scientific and technical potential.”

The president especially noted Leonov’s active social and creative work, his constant and sincere attention to problems of preserving and continuing traditions of national astronautics.

Prime Minister Medvedev also noted the cosmonaut’s versatile talent and rare commitment to work, thanks to which Leonov managed to share his impressions with other people, who duly appreciated his literary and artistic works.

Aleksei Leonov's spacewalk. Credit: ITAR-TASS
Aleksei Leonov's spacewalk. Credit: ITAR-TASS

“A whole epoch in the development of not only Russian but also the world’s aeronautics is associated with your name,” Medvedev said. “You are a man of courage and a representative of the legendary first team of space conquerors. You were the first to walk in open space and you participated in the famous Soviet-US Apollo-Soyuz programme, which became quite literally ‘a link-up of detente’.”

“Today, this is a reminder to all of us that space is a platform for the closest and most fruitful cooperation,” Medvedev added.

Aleksei Leonov was born on 30 May, 1934 in the small village of Listvyanka 600 kilometres north of the city of Kemerovo in the southeast of Western Siberia. After early schooling in Kaliningrad, Leonov joined the Soviet Air Force in 1953 and was selected for cosmonaut training in 1959. In 1965 he became the first person to perform a spacewalk. After exiting the spacecraft Voskhod-2 and while tethered to the ship, Leonov made observations, took motion pictures before re-entering the ship. A decade later he commanded the Soyuz craft that linked in orbit with the US Apollo craft in July 1975.


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