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Cosmonaut who performed first spacewalk dies aged 85

11 October 2019

Alexei Leonov, who became the first human to walk in space in 1965, died on Friday at the age of 85 after a long illness, Russia's TASS news agency reported.

The Russian space agency 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.

On March 18, 1965, Leonov became the first man to walk in space when he crawled out of an inflatable airlock strapped to the side of his Voskhod 2 capsule for a 12-minute walk.

Leonov's 12-minute spacewalk preceded the first USA spacewalk, by Ed White, by less than three months.

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Leonov trained as a military pilot before becoming a cosmonaut.

The outing was stressful for Leonov whose space suit filled with air to the point where he struggled to get back into his spacecraft. Apollo-Soyuz 19 was a prelude to the global cooperation seen aboard the current space station.

In 1975, Leonov took part in the historic Soyuz-Apollo spaceflight which, put an end to the "space race" between the US and Soviet Union. They said "Happy Birthday!" to Leonov before opening the hatch and venturing out.

This is the second of a total of five planned spacewalks dedicated to replacing the space station's batteries.

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"We were going to stop by Alexei Arkhipovich (Leonov) after our return and give him our space souvenirs, but you see it wasn't meant to be", Kononenko said.

Kononenko spoke fondly of the Soviet space pioneer, saying he was a frequent guest at send-off ceremonies for space crews in Star City and at the cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

As is often the case, NASA is live streaming the entire event from start to finish, giving us a glimpse at what it takes to walk in space and perform maintenance on one of the most complex pieces of machinery ever sent into space.

Messages of condolences poured in from around the globe following news of his death.

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Leonov will be laid to rest at a cemetery just outside Moscow on Tuesday.

Cosmonaut who performed first spacewalk dies aged 85