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Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov (Russian: Алексе́й Архи́пович Лео́нов, IPA: [ɐlʲɪˈksʲej ɐˈrxʲipəvʲɪtɕ lʲɪˈonəf]; born 30 May 1934) is a retired Soviet/Russian cosmonaut, Air Force Major general, writer and artist. On 18 March 1965, he became the first human to conduct extravehicular activity (EVA), exiting the capsule during the Voskhod 2 mission for a 12-minute spacewalk.

Alexei Leonov
Aleksey Leonov ASTP - cropped.jpg
Alexei Leonov in April 1974
Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov

(1934-05-30) 30 May 1934 (age 85)
OccupationFighter pilot, Cosmonaut
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union (twice)
Space career
Soviet cosmonaut
RankMajor General, Soviet Air Force
Time in space
7d 00h 32 m
SelectionAir Force Group 1
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
12 minutes, 9 seconds
MissionsVoskhod 2, Soyuz 19 (ASTP)
Mission insignia
Voskhod2 patch.jpg ASTP patch.png ASTPpatch.svg

In July 1975, Leonov commanded the Soyuz capsule in the Soyuz-Apollo mission, which docked in space for two days with an American Apollo capsule.


Alexei Leonov (left, back row) with fellow cosmonauts in 1965

Leonov was born in Listvyanka, West Siberian Krai, Soviet Union. In 1936, his father Arkhip was arrested and declared an "enemy of the people". Leonov wrote in his autobiography: "He was not alone: many were being arrested. It was part of a conscientious drive by the authorities to eradicate anyone who showed too much independence or strength of character. These were the years of Stalin's purges. Many disappeared into remote gulags and were never seen again." In 1948 his family moved to Kaliningrad. In 1957 Leonov graduated from Chuguev military pilot's academy in the Ukrainian SSR.[1]

He was one of the 20 Soviet Air Force pilots selected to be part of the first cosmonaut group in 1960. Leonov was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (the only cosmonaut that was not was Konstantin Feoktistov). His walk in space was originally to have taken place on the Voskhod 1 mission, but this was cancelled, and the historic event happened on the Voskhod 2 flight instead.[2] He was outside the spacecraft for 12 minutes and nine seconds on 18 March 1965, connected to the craft by a 5.35-metre (17.6 ft) tether. At the end of the spacewalk, Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter the airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off and was barely able to get back inside the capsule.[3] Leonov had spent eighteen months undergoing intensive weightlessness training for the mission. Leonov is the last survivor of the five cosmonauts in the Voskhod programme.

In 1968, Leonov was selected to be commander of a circumlunar Soyuz 7K-L1 flight. This was cancelled because of delays in achieving a reliable circumlunar flight (only the later Zond 7 and Zond 8 members of the programme were successful) and the Apollo 8 mission had already achieved that step in the Space Race. He was also selected to be the first Soviet person to land on the Moon, aboard the LOK/N1 spacecraft.[2] This project was also cancelled. (The design required a spacewalk between lunar vehicles, something that contributed to his selection.) Leonov was to have been commander of the 1971 Soyuz 11 mission to Salyut 1, the first crewed space station, but his crew was replaced with the backup after one of the members, cosmonaut Valery Kubasov, was suspected to have contracted tuberculosis (the other member was Pyotr Kolodin).[citation needed]

Leonov was to have commanded the next mission to Salyut 1,[4] but this was scrapped after the deaths of the Soyuz 11 crew members, and the space station was lost. The next two Salyuts (actually the military Almaz station) were lost at launch or failed soon after, and Leonov's crew stood by. By the time Salyut 4 reached orbit, Leonov had been switched to a more prestigious project.

Leonov's second trip into space was similarly significant: he commanded the Soviet half of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission – Soyuz 19 – the first joint space mission between the Soviet Union and the United States.

From 1976 to 1982, Leonov was the commander of the cosmonaut team ("Chief Cosmonaut") and deputy director of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, where he oversaw crew training. He also edited the cosmonaut newsletter Neptune. He retired in 1992.[2]

Leonov's painting Near the Moon (1967)

Leonov is an accomplished artist whose published books include albums of his artistic works and works he did in collaboration with his friend Andrei Sokolov. Leonov took coloured pencils and paper into space, where he sketched the Earth and drew portraits of the Apollo astronauts who flew with him during the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project.[4][5] Arthur C. Clarke wrote in his notes to 2010: Odyssey Two that, after a 1968 screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Leonov pointed out to him that the alignment of the Moon, Earth, and Sun shown in the opening is essentially the same as that in Leonov's 1967 painting Near the Moon, although the painting's diagonal framing of the scene was not replicated in the film. Clarke kept an autographed sketch of this painting—which Leonov made after the screening—hanging on his office wall.[6]

Together with Valentin Selivanov, Leonov wrote the script for the 1980 science fiction film The Orion Loop.

In 2001, he was a vice president of Moscow-based Alfa-Bank and an adviser to the first deputy of the Board.[7]

In 2004, Leonov and former American astronaut David Scott began work on a dual biography/history of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Titled Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race, it was published in 2006. Neil Armstrong and Tom Hanks both wrote introductions to the book.

Leonov was also a contributor to the 2007 book Into That Silent Sea by Colin Burgess and Francis French, which describes his life and career in space exploration.

Honours and awardsEdit

Alexei Leonov on 1965 USSR 10 kopek stamp.

Foreign awards

  • Hero of Socialist Labour (People's Republic of Bulgaria, 1965)
  • Hero of Vietnam
  • Hero of Labour (Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 1966)
  • Order of Karl Marx (German Democratic Republic, 1966)
  • Order of Georgi Dimitrov (People's Republic of Bulgaria)
  • Order of the Banner of the Hungarian People's Republic
  • Order of Merit, 3rd class (Ukraine, 12 April 2011) - for his significant personal contribution to the development of space industry, advances in the creation and implementation of space systems and technologies, professional excellence
  • Medal A. Becker.
  • Order "For Merit", 1st class (Syria, 1966)

Public organizations

  • "Gold Medal partisan" (Italy, 1967)
    Apollo-Soyuz crew in 1975
  • International Air & Space Hall of Fame inductee (2000)[8]
  • Ludwig Nobel Prize (2007)
  • Elmer A. Sperry Award (USA, 2008)
  • Order of Saint Constantine the Great (Union of the Golden Knights of the Order of St. Constantine the Great)
  • Order "Golden Star" (Foundation Heroes of the Soviet Union and Heroes of the Russian Federation together with the organizing committee of the International Forum "The potential of the nation").
  • Order the "Pride of Russia" (Foundation for the "Pride of the Fatherland", 2007).
  • National Award "To the glory of the Fatherland" in the "Glory to Russia" (International Academy of Social Sciences and International Academy of patronage, 2008).
  • Order "the glory of the Fatherland", 2nd class (2008)

Leonov was awarded the Gold Space Medal from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) in 1976. FAI created an exception which allowed Stafford to be awarded it alongside him; typically the award is restricted to one person per year.[9]

Other awards and titles


Alexei Leonov (right) shares a moment with Anton Shkaplerov (left) in October 2011.


  1. ^ The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team: Their Lives and Legacies. Springer Science & Business Media. 2009. pp. 55–56. ISBN 038784824X.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hall, Rex; Shayler, David; Vis, Bert (2005). Russia's Cosmonauts: Inside the Yuri Gagarin. Chichester, UK: Praxis. pp. 332–3. ISBN 0-387-21894-7.
  3. ^ McKinnon, Mika. "50 Years Ago, The First Spacewalk Nearly Ended in Tragedy". Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Alexei Leonov Biography". Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Alexei Leonov: winner of the 2005 IAAA Lucien Rudaux Memorial Award". Archived from the original on 1 July 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
  6. ^ Clarke, Arthur C. (1982). "Author's Note". 2010: Odyssey Two (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. pp. xvii–xviii. ISBN 0-345-41397-0. OCLC 8429900. Clarke describes the painting itself on page 76 of the initial hardback edition.
  7. ^ "Aleksei Leonov and Alexander Gafin become members of the American Pushkin Academy of Art". Alfa-Bank. 23 February 2001. Retrieved 8 July 2007.
  8. ^ Sprekelmeyer, Linda, ed. (2006). These We Honor: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame. San Diego: Donning Co. Publishers. ISBN 978-1-57864-397-4. OCLC 71812756.
  9. ^ "Edwards Commander Awarded Medals". The Bakersfield Californian. Bakersfield, California. 1 October 1976. p. 9 – via
  10. ^ Leonov, Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN)


Text and captions in Russian and English; table of contents is in English.
Album of space art.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit