The Soviet cosmonaut №11, the first man to perform a spacewalk, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Alexey Leonov, turned 80 on May 30th 2014.
Alexey Arkhipovich was born on May 30th 1934 in Listvyanka village (Tisulsk District of Kemerovo Region); he was the eighth child in the family. In 1937 he and his mother moved to Kemerovo. In 1947 his family moved to Kaliningrad (Konigsberg). He graduated from high school number 21 in Kaliningrad in 1953. He graduated from the 10th military flying school located in Kremenchug in 1955. In 1957 he graduated from Chuguevsk military flight school. In 1960 he was enlisted into the first squad of Soviet cosmonauts.
On March 18th — 19th 1965 he was appointed a co-pilot for Voskhod-2 mission and took a spaceflight together with Pavel Belov. During the mission Leonov performed the first ever spacewalk that lasted for 12 minutes 9 seconds. During the spacewalk he showed courage, especially during an emergency situation when his space suit became inflated and prevented him from returning to the spaceship. Ha managed to lower the pressure inside the suit and return to the spacecraft. At that he had to enter the spacecraft head foremost (instead of feet foremost), which was prohibited by the instruction.
Prior to the landing the automatic positioning system failed and P.I. Belyaev positioned the spacecraft in manual mode and turned on the retro engine. As a result Voskhod landed off-target 180 km north to Perm. The cosmonauts had to spend two nights in a deep forest in the cold. Only on the third day the rescuers managed to reach them using skis; they had to chop trees near the landing area in order to use a helicopter for evacuation. The duration of this flight was 1 day 2 hours 2 minutes and 17 seconds.
On March 23rd 1965 Colonel Alexey Leonov was awarded the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union for successful completion of this mission and courage shown during the spaceflight. He was also awarded with the Order of Lenin and Gold Star medal.
In 1965—1969 Leonov was a part of a team of Soviet cosmonauts, which was being prepared for a Moon mission (Luna L1/Zond) – their spacecraft should have flown around the Moon and then landed on its surface. Leonov was also the leading candidate (commander of the main crew) for becoming the first man on the Moon in September 1968 (in accordance with the schedule of Soviet space program approved in 1967) in the network of a parallel Moon program. However, this program was also cancelled.
In 1968 he graduated from the Air Force Academy named after N.E. Zhukovsky (engineering faculty). On January 22nd 1969 he was inside a car that was fired upon by officer Viktor Ilyin during an attempted assassination of Leonid Brezhnev. He came out unharmed.
In 1971 he was the commander of the main crew of Soyuz-11, but shortly before the launch a medical board declined to clear Kubasov and the crew was changed. Backup crew performed the flight — Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsaev. They died.
On July 15th — 21st 1975 he took his second spaceflight together with V.N. Kubasov; Leonov was the commander of Soyuz-19 mission in the network of Apollo-Soyuz project. The duration of this flight was 5 days 22 hours 30 minutes and 51 seconds. The docking of two spacecraft owned by different countries has been performed for the first time ever.
On July 22nd 1975 Major General A.A. Leonov was awarded with the rank of twice Hero of the Soviet Union for successful completion of this mission and courage shown during the spaceflight. He was also awarded with one more Order of Lenin and his second Gold Star medal.
In 1970—1991 he worked as a Deputy Director of Cosmonaut Training Center. In 1981 he defended a thesis at Air Force Academy named after N.E. Zhukovsky and received a degree of Candidate of Engineering Sciences. He retired in March 1992. He has 4 inventions and over 10 scientific works.
After retirement Major General Leonov devoted himself to his hobby - painting. Many exhibitions of his work were held in different countries. In 2004 Russian Academy of Arts appointed him its honorary member.