In 1965, the first spacewalk took place as Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov left his Voskhod 2 capsule and remained outside the spacecraft for 20 minutes, secured by a tether. Leonov floated out into the vacuum of space on March 18, 1965, beating America's first spacewalker, Gemini 4's Edward White II, by just 2 1/2 months. Leonov is now 80; White died in the Apollo 1 fire on the launch pad in 1967.
Spacewalking always carries high risk; a puncture by a micrometeorite or sharp edge, if big enough, could result in instant death. Leonov, could barely get back into his spacecraft in 1965. He had to vent precious oxygen from his suit in order to fit through the hatch. Decades passed before his peril came to light.
In 1966, two Gemini flights ended up with aborted spacewalks. Gemini 11 spacewalker Richard Gordon, was blinded by sweat. Gemini 9 spacewalker Gene Cernan breathed so heavily and sweated so much that fog collected inside his helmet visor and froze.
During NASA's old shuttle program, spacewalks occasionally were stymied by stuck hatches and ripped gloves.
In early March of this year, spacewalking astronauts successfully completed a three-day cable job outside the International Space Station, routing several-hundred feet of power and data lines for new crew capsules commissioned by NASA.
As many as four more U.S. spacewalks will be conducted this year — beginning this summer.
Below is a selection of spacewalking missions through the years.
Text from the AP news stories, Spacewalking astronauts finish extensive, tricky cable job and Spacesuit water leak ends spacewalk; astronaut OK, by Marcia Dunn.
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