Russian Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, First Human to Perform Spacewalk, Dies

Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov who made the first spacewalk in 1965 right and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for

Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov who made the first spacewalk in 1965 right and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for

Four years later, Mr Leonov made history when he left a spacecraft during the Voskhod 2 mission for a spacewalk that lasted 12 minutes and nine seconds.

In 1975, he also took part in the historic Soyuz-Apollo spaceflight, which signalled the end of the Space Race.

"I stepped into that void and I didn't fall in", the cosmonaut recalled years later.

He was twice decorated with the country's top honour, the Hero of the Soviet Union. Once the U.S. Apollo and Soviet Soyuz capsules docked in orbit around Earth on July, 17, 1975, Leonov and his Russian crewmate, Valeri Kubasov, welcomed the three U.S. astronauts - their Cold War rivals - with canned borscht disguised as Stolichnaya vodka.

Alexei Leonov died at Moscow's Burdenko hospital after a long illness, his assistant Natalia Filimonova said, with the cosmonaut's demise being confirmed by the Yuri A. Gagarin State Scientific Research-and-Testing Cosmonaut Training Center. "That worked, they opened it and drank [the borscht] and were caught by surprise". Several days before that, two Russian crewmembers on the International Space Station ventured into open space on a planned spacewalk, carrying Leonov's picture with them to pay tribute to the space legend.

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"This is a loss for the whole planet", said Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko.

Their return to Earth almost ended in tragedy when Leonov and Belyayev were forced to crash land in a forest some 180 kilometres (111 miles) from the Urals city of Perm.

Tributes poured in from across the globe, with Western space agencies and experts praising Leonov's contribution and admirers bidding him farewell.

NASA on Friday offered sympathy to Leonov's family, saying it was saddened by his death. The new batteries are much, much more efficient than the old models, meaning that for every two old batteries the team removes, only one new one as to be installed.

"One of the first cosmonauts of the world space era, Alexei Leonov was committed to his Motherland and his cause, his name is lettered in gold in the world space exploration history", Roscosmos said.

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