The first human spacewalk

In preparation for the flight, Belyaev and Leonov prepared all measures and possible emergencies during space exercises during ground training, as well as in short-term weightlessness on board an aircraft flying along a parabolic orbit.

On March 18, 1965, at 10 o’clock Moscow time, the Voskhod-2 spacecraft with the cosmonauts Pavel Belyaev and Alexei Leonov was successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Immediately after ascending into orbit, already at the end of the first orbit, the crew began to prepare for Leonov’s spacewalk. Belyaev helped Leonov put on the back of an individual life support system with oxygen supply.

The lock control was performed by the master of the vessel Belyaev from the control panel installed in the cockpit. If necessary, Leonov could control the main locking operations from a remote control installed in the lock chamber.

Belyaev filled the lock chamber with air and opened the hatch that connects the ship’s cabin to the lock chamber. Leonov “floated” into the lock chamber, the ship’s master, closed the door into the chamber, began the pressure relief.

At 11 hours 28 minutes 13 seconds, at the beginning of the second orbit, the ship’s locking chamber was completely depressurized. At 11 hours 32 minutes 54 seconds the airlock door was opened and at 11 hours 34 minutes and 51 seconds Leonov left the airlock into outer space. The cosmonaut was connected to the spacecraft with a 5.35 meter long case, which included a steel cable and electrical wires for transmitting data from medical observations and technical measurements to the spacecraft, as well as for telephone communication with the spacecraft master.

In outer space, Leonov began to perform the observations and experiments that the program predicted. He made five withdrawals and approaches from the lock chamber, with the very first withdrawal at a minimum distance – one meter – for orientation in new conditions, and the rest for the entire length of the case. Throughout this time, the space suit was kept at “room temperature”, and its outer surface was heated in the sun to + 60 ° C and cooled in the shade to -100 ° C. Pavel Belyaev, using a television camera and telemetry, followed Leonov’s work and was ready to give him the help he needed.

After performing a series of experiments, Alexei Leonov received a command to return, but it was not easy to do. Due to the difference in pressure in space, the suit swelled up, lost its flexibility and Leonov could not squeeze into the airlock hatch. He made several failed attempts. The supply of oxygen in the suit was designed for only 20 minutes, which ended. Then the astronaut lowered the spacecraft to emergency pressure. If he had not had nitrogen washed out of his blood by this time, he would have boiled and Leonov would have died. The suit shrank and contrary to the instructions to enter the airlock with his feet, he squeezed into it with his head first. After closing the outer hatch, Leonov began to turn around, as he still had to enter the ship with his feet due to the fact that the lid that opened inwards ate up 30% of the cabin volume. It was difficult to turn, because the inner diameter of the airlock was one meter, and the width of the suit at the shoulders was 68 centimeters. With great difficulty Leonov managed to do this, and he was able to enter the ship with his feet, as expected.

Alexei Leonov at 11:47 went into the ship’s lock chamber. And at 11 hours 51 minutes 54 seconds, after the door was closed, the pressurization of the airlock began. Thus, the pilot cosmonaut was out of the ship in outer space for 23 minutes and 41 seconds. According to the provisions of the International Sports Code, the net time a person spends in outer space is calculated from the moment he appears from the airlock chamber (from the edge of the ship’s exit hatch) to the entrance back to the chamber. Therefore, the time Alexei Leonov spends in open space outside the spacecraft is considered to be 12 minutes 09 seconds.

With the help of the television system on board, the process of Alexei Leonov’s exit into outer space, his work outside the spacecraft and his return to the spacecraft were transmitted to Earth and observed by a network of ground stations.

After returning to Leonov’s cabin, the cosmonauts continued to carry out the experiments planned by the flight program.

There were several more emergencies during the escape, which fortunately did not lead to any tragedy. One of these situations occurred during the return: the system with automatic orientation towards the sun did not work, and therefore the brake propulsion system did not start in time. The cosmonauts were to land in automatic mode on the seventeenth orbit, but due to the failure of the automation caused by the “firing” of the lock chamber, they had to go to the next, eighteenth orbit and land with the manual control system. This was the first manual landing, and during its implementation it was found that it was impossible to look into the cabin valve from the cosmonaut’s work chair and assess the ship’s position in relation to the earth. It was possible to start braking only when sitting in a seat in a tense state. Due to this emergency, the accuracy required during the descent was lost. As a result, on March 19, the cosmonauts landed far from the estimated landing point, in the deep taiga, 180 kilometers northwest of Perm.

We did not find them directly, tall trees prevented the landing of helicopters. Therefore, the astronauts had to spend the night near the fire and use parachutes and spacesuits for isolation. The next day, in the undergrowth, a few kilometers from the place where the crew landed, a rescue team went down to clear the place of a small helicopter. A group of rescuers on skis reached the astronauts. Rescuers built a log cabin, where they equipped sleeping accommodation for the night. On March 21, the platform was prepared to receive the helicopter, and on the same day, the cosmonauts arrived in Perm aboard the Mi-4, from where they made an official report on the completion of the flight.

On October 20, 1965, the International Aviation Federation (FAI) approved a world record for the duration of a person’s stay in outer space outside a spacecraft of 12 minutes 09 seconds, and an absolute record for the maximum flight altitude of Voskhod-2 spacecraft above the Earth’s surface – 497, 7 kilometers. The FAI awarded Alexei Leonov the highest award – the gold medal “Cosmos” for the first spacewalk in human history, the USSR pilot cosmonaut Pavel Belyaev was awarded a diploma and a medal from the FAI.

The first spacewalk was conducted by Soviet cosmonauts 2.5 months earlier than the Americans. The first American in space was Edward White, who made a spacewalk on June 3, 1965 during his flight with the Gemini-4 (Gemini-4) spacecraft. The duration of the stay in open space was 22 minutes.

In recent years, the range of tasks solved by cosmonauts outside spacecraft and stations has increased significantly. The modernization of spacesuits has been constantly implemented and is being implemented. As a result, the duration of a person’s stay in a space vacuum for an exit has increased many times over. Today, space travel is a mandatory part of the program for all expeditions to the International Space Station. During exits, scientific research, repair work, installation of new equipment on the station’s outer surface, launch of small satellites and much more are carried out.

The material has been prepared based on information from open sources


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