Alexei Leonov, 1st person to walk in space, dies at 85

Alexei Leonov, the Russian cosmonaut, who has died aged 85, performed the first spacewalk in history when he left the Voskhod 2 capsule and drifted in the vacuum; but the return almost proved fatal.

Russian space agency Roscosmos Space Corporation announced his passing Friday.

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

Leonov's 12-minute spacewalk preceded the first US spacewalk, by Ed White, by less than three months. He had to open a valve to vent oxygen from his suit to be able to fit through the hatch. He received a "Hero of the Soviet Union" medal - one of the Russian state's most prestigious awards - twice and has a small crater on the Moon named after him.

NASA broke into its live televised coverage of a spacewalk by two Americans outside the International Space Station to report Leonov's death.

Russian President Vladimir Putin knew Leonov well and had great respect for his courage, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday, TASS reported.

Leonov flew into space again in 1975, commanding the Soviet half of the Apollo-Soyuz mission, the first U.S.

Leonov was born in 1934 in a large peasant family in western Siberia.

Two NASA astronauts are now outside the International Space Station on the second of several planned spacewalks to replace batteries affixed to the outside of the spacecraft. Earlier this year, International Space Station cosmonauts recorded birthday greetings for Leonov in space.

Roscosmos said Leonov would be buried Tuesday at a military memorial cemetery outside Moscow.

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

NASA said in a statement on Twitter it was saddened by Leonov's death.

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