White walks in orbit

NASA's plans for Extra-Vehicular Activity, or EVA, were brought forward after the latest Soviet spectacular - astronaut Ed White would now leave the spacecraft during Gemini 4, in June 1965. Fortunately the Gemini design, with twin hatches above each of the astronaut couches, needed no modifications to allow for easy exit - the astronauts simply depressurized the cabin and opened White's hatch, allowing him to step out into space with none of the complexities of the Voskhod spacewalk. Although White, like Leonov, remained attached to the spacecraft by a tether, he took with him a hand-held "jet gun" that squirted pressurized gas from a nozzle, allowing him to push himself around until the fuel supply was exhausted.

White's EVA produced far more spectacular images than those from Leonov's spacewalk and helped NASA overcome the impression of trailing the Soviets yet again. Although no one knew it at the time, Leonov's spacewalk was to be the last Soviet spectacular - with Khrushchev ousted, the Voskhod project was cancelled, freeing the designers of OKB-1 to concentrate fully on the development of Soyuz.

13 April 1964

The go-ahead is given to develop a two-man Vostok variant with an inflatable airlock, known initially as Vykhod.

24 September 1964

Khrushchev visits the Baikonur Cosmodrome to see a demonstration of the Vykhod EVA technique.

9 February 1965

Pavel Belyayev and Alexei Leonov are selected as prime crew for the renamed Voskhod 2.

22 February 1965

An unmanned test mission ends early after two ground stations send conflicting commands to the Cosmos 57 spacecraft.

18 March 1965

Voskhod 2 launches. On its second orbit, Alexei Leonov makes history's first spacewalk.

29 March 1965

A meeting of NASA officials chaired by Robert Gilruth decides that Ed White's planned stand-up EVA on Gemini 4 should be upgraded to a full, tethered spacewalk.

3 June 1965

Gemini 4 carries James McDivitt and Ed White into orbit, where White performs a spacewalk.

I'm coming back and it's the saddest moment of my life."

Ed White, on being told to re-enter the Gemini capsule, 3 June 1965

ALEXEI LEONOV

Leonov's relaxed personality and sense of humour made him popular among the early cosmonaut trainees. During the Vostok 1 flight, Gagarin found time to send "regards to Blondin" - a reference to Leonov's fair hair.

EXPERIENCE

THE FIRST SPACEWALK

Alone in the darkness

While Leonov was delighted by the experience of floating free in orbit, he was already experiencing problems. The heat was intolerable, and the suit had inflated in the vacuum - Leonov was unable to reach the switch on his trouser leg that would have activated a high-quality Swiss camera mounted on his chest. The most difficult part of the spacewalk was just beginning.

INSIDE VOSKHOD

The Descent Module of the Voskhod was cramped with two astronauts in full spacesuits. Belyayev also wore a pressure suit in case something went wrong with the Volga airlock system.

"I was surprised that the Earth looked very much like a globe or a map, and that the Black Sea was really black - the darkest sea on Earth ... I wondered who called the Black Sea 'black' and how did he know it? I saw it from outer space!"

ALEXEI LEONOV

Leonov's relaxed personality and sense of humour made him popular among the early cosmonaut trainees. During the Vostok 1 flight, Gagarin found time to send "regards to Blondin" - a reference to Leonov's fair hair.

The flight of Voskhod 2 saw the first attempt by a cosmonaut to leave his ship and walk in orbit, protected only by a spacesuit. Although ultimately a triumph, Alexei Leonov's ten-minute foray into open space almost ended in disaster.

During Voskhod 2's second orbit around the Earth, Commander Pavel Belyayev began to inflate the Volga airlock. Meanwhile, Leonov had donned the backpack that would supply his suit with oxygen during the spacewalk. The suit itself was a modified version of the standard Vostok pressure suit, called Berkut (meaning "golden eagle"). The backpack blew oxygen into the suit, while a relief valve allowed air to vent into space, carrying carbon dioxide, heat, and moisture with it - a design feature that soon would prove vital. Leonov now climbed into the airlock while Belyayev sealed the hatch behind him and drained away the air, allowing his comrade to float out into open space, to the very limit of the 5m (16ft) cord that attached him to the spacecraft. As he later recalled:

FLOATING IN SPACE

Most of the pictures from Leonov's spacewolk (above and left) were grainy images transmitted from the television cameras - Leonov did not have a chonce to retrieve film from the higher-quality camera mounted on the airlock. Leonov's daughter was frightened by the sight of her father alone in space, while his ageing grandfather criticized him for fooling around!

"The Earth was absolutely round ...

I never knew what the word round meant until I saw Earth from space."

Alexei Leonov, 1980

Alexei Leonov, 1980

COMMEMORATION

Leonov's walk in space wos heralded as a Soviet triumph on a par with the flight of Gagarin and was depicted in coins, medals, stamps and badges.

Once inside, he had to twist around in the narrow space to close the external hatch behind him so that the airlock could be repressurized. An exhausted Leonov re-entered the Voskhod capsule 20 minutes after leaving it.

CELEBRATED EXPLOIT

The USA was gripped by Leonov's exploits - more so as his personality emerged at post-mission press conferences. NASA hurriedly added a spacewolk to its Gemini 4 mission.

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"... I had to take a decision to lower the pressure inside the space suit, but by how much? Too much would have led to a boiling of blood in the body, which would have finished me off. But I had to do it. I didn't report this down to Earth."

Once inside, he had to twist around in the narrow space to close the external hatch behind him so that the airlock could be repressurized. An exhausted Leonov re-entered the Voskhod capsule 20 minutes after leaving it.

COMMEMORATION

Leonov's walk in space wos heralded as a Soviet triumph on a par with the flight of Gagarin and was depicted in coins, medals, stamps and badges.

CELEBRATED EXPLOIT

The USA was gripped by Leonov's exploits - more so as his personality emerged at post-mission press conferences. NASA hurriedly added a spacewolk to its Gemini 4 mission.

"Building manned orbital stations and exploring the Universe are inseparably linked with man's activity in open space."

Alexei Leonov, 1980

SOVIET HERO

A commemorative postcard shows Leonov flooting like a superhero above the Earth - the truth of his struggle to re-enter the airlock did not emerge for several decades. Leonov has recently revealed he wos also given a suicide pill in case he came adrift in space.

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After ten minutes in space, Leonov attempted to re-enter the airlock. The set procedure was to grip the airlock collar and push in feet first - but in the overinflated spacesuit, he found the gloves had ballooned away from his fingers and his feet had slipped out of his boots. Leonov tried to clamber in head first, but he could not fit into the airlock. The only solution was to open up the pressure relief valve and drain the suit of air.

ABOVE THE EARTH

(Far left) Gemini 8's radar picked up the Ageno ATV at a distance of 332km (206 miles), and the rocket stage was visible to the naked eye from 140km (87 miles). Neil Armstrong brought Gemini 8 in above the ATV so that he and David Scott could inspect its condition.

WEIGHTLESS WALTZ

(Above) After inspecting the ATV from a distance of 46m (150ft), Armstrong used Gemini 8's manoeuvring system to line up with the target vehicle, then edged towards it at a speed of 8cm (3in) per second.

READY TO DOCK

(Left) Finally, Gemini 8's nose cone edged into the ATV's docking adapter. The mechanism engaged first time - the first docking in space. But within minutes, Armstrong and Scott would be fighting for their lives as their spacecraft began to spin out of control.

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