Cosmonaut who performed first spacewalk dies aged 85

Cosmonaut who performed first spacewalk dies aged 85

Leonov also was the Russian commander of the Apollo-Soyuz joint space mission in 1975, a prelude to the global cooperation seen aboard the current space station.

The flight and spacewalk were successful on the whole, but his return to Earth almost ended in tragedy when Mr Leonov and another cosmonaut, Mr Pavel Belyayev, crash-landed in the Siberian woods.

Russian space agency Roscosmos confirmed his death in a statement on its website, but gave no further details.

Though Leonov wasn't the first man on the moon (a goal he wasn't shy about), he earned his own "first" in the space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union. The Russians beat the Americans there, too.

British astronaut Tim Peake described the Russian as "a hero to so many" who was "always full of wisdom and humour".

"This is a bittersweet day for all of us on the International Space Station", said Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who met Leonov in years past. "We insisted, saying that according to our tradition, we must drink before work". 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. "I believe I never knew what the word round meant until I saw Earth from space".

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When his crew returned to earth at the end of June, Leonov was already unwell. "We all looked forward to that, always thought about it and always wanted Leonov to be the one to send us off into space".

Astronauts replaced oversized batteries outside the International Space Station on Friday, as news broke of the death of the world's first spacewalker.

NASA paid tribute to Leonov on Friday.

"His venture into the vacuum of space began the history of extravehicular activity that makes today's Space Station maintenance possible", NASA said on Twitter. These new batteries are so powerful only one is needed for every two of the hydrogen-nickel units, which will be junked.

The memorial service and the funeral are expected to take place on 15 October, at the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery.

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