If memory serves, the spacecraft that is sent out to investigate the disappearance of the Discovery in 2010 was called the Leonov after this gentleman. Most folks don't know who Alexi is, but those who saw the movie may recall his name. I find this a little disconcerting, since this was an astounding milestone for humanity, let alone the old USSR.

Aleksei Arkhipovich Leonov (cyrillic Алексей Архипович Леонов) was born May 30, 1934 in the village of Listvyanka, Russia. After World War Two his family moved to Kaliningrad. He left High School in 1953 and entered into a military aviation school, from their he became a pilot in the Soviet Air Force. He was selected as a cosmonaut for the first group in 1959, though was considering returning to the Air Force but was persuaded by friends to stay in the cosmonaut group.

He was first assigned to the group of cosmonauts training for the Vostok 5/6 joint mission. Vostok 5 would launch first, followed the next day by Vostok 6. They would come within a couple of miles of each other (though this was due solely to the launching as the Vostok capsule had no ability to change its orbit except for reentry). In the end the flight Vostok 5 spot went to Valeri Bykovsky.

His first flight was Voskhod 2. Launched March 18, 1965, he and Pavel Belyayev were launched in a modified Vostok spacecraft with the objective of performing the first spacewalk. Due to the fact the spacecraft stilled used Vacumn Tubes instead of transistors it could not be depressurised. This meant an inflatable airlock was installed on the side through which Leonov would exit. He managed to exit alright and was 'outside' for 10 minutes. What wasn't made public were the litany of problems that then occurred.

When Leonov tried to reenter the airlock he encountered a serious problem. For some reason his spacesuit had ballooned in size and so he was foreced to bleed air from it through a valve. This was an extrememly dangerous exercise as he could have suffered from the Bends as the nitrogen undissolved in his blood due to the lower pressure. He finally managed to reenter the spacecraft but the hatch would not shut properly causing the spacecraft's environment system to flood the spacecraft with oxygen which could have caused a fire.

The retrofire failed the first time and the crew were forced to wait an orbit before manually firing the backup system mounted on the nose of the spacecraft. Then the service module failed to jettison properly causing the capsule to gyrate until the wires holding the two together burned though. Due to this they landed off course in a heavy forest near Perm in the Ural Mountains. The rescue crew had to cut down trees to make room for the helicoptor to land and the crew had to spend the night in the woods.

He was to proposed as the crew for the planned Vostok 11 flight. This would have involved the Vostok being modified with an airlock and the ejection seat removed. The sole occupant would have performed an EVA.

He then moved to the Soviet lunar program where he was training for the first circumlunar flight. The mission was cancelled after the success of Apollo 8 and also because of the continuing problems that the spacecraft was having.

He was on the backup crew for Soyuz 10, the first flight to Salyut 1. The spacecraft managed to soft dock with the Salyut 1 but hard docking could not be achieved because of the angle of approach. It was found after the flight that the crew had no way of judging their range or angle during a manual docking. They were forced to reenter and during the landing, the Soyuz air supply became toxic. The crew survived but Nikolai Rukavishnikov did become unconscious during the descent through the atmosphere.

He was to have been on the prime crew for the Soyuz 11 flight. The original crew of Leonov, Valeri Kubasov and Pyotr Kolodin were bumped when it was suspected that Kubasov had contracted tuberculosis. The backup crew of Georgi Dobrovolsky, Viktor Patsayev, and Vladislav Volkov were made the prime crew. They flew a month long mission but perished when the spacecraft depressurised during descent.

Leonov was then assigned to the first crew to the next two Salyut stations. These missions were cancelled after both failed before they could be occupied.

Leonov's second and final flight was Soyuz 19, the Soviet half of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project. It was the first human spaceflight mission managed jointly by two nations. Soyuz 19 launched on July 15, 1975 also with Valerei Kubasov on board. They docked with Apollo carrying Vance Brand, Deke Slayton and Thomas Stafford on board. The crews spent a few days docked during which time the crews transferred between the two spacecraft performing experiments, but mostly the aim of the exercise was goodwill.

In all he spent 7 days, and 32 minutes in space over two missions.

From 1971 he was the Deputy Chief of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and the chief of the cosmonaut corps. He left there in 1982 and is currently the president of US Investment company called "Alpha Capital" based in Moscow.

He was twice a Hero of the Soviet Union, has two Orders of Lenin, one Red Star, and the Order of Service to the Motherland. In 1981 he won the State Premium of the USSR. The winner of the Premium of Lenin Komsomol for Literature and Arts and the Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Gold Medal. He was also a Hero of Socialist Work for National Republic of Bulgaria and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and awards from Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Greece. He is an honourary citizen of Kaluga, Perm, Vologda, Kemerovo, Nalchik, Kaliningrad, Vladimir, Belgorod (Russia), Druskininkaj (Latvia), Karaganda, Dzhezkazgan, Arkalyk (Kazakhstan), Los Angeles, New York, Houston, San Antonio, San Francisco, Washington, Atlanta, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Chicago (USA) and Altenburg (Germany). Last but not least he also has a crater on the moon named after him.

He wrote one book titled "Features of psychological activity of cosmonauts".

One of his great loves is painting and he has had many of his works exhibited.


  • http://www.space.hobby.ru/astronauts/leonov.html
  • http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksei_Leonov
  • http://www.astronautix.com/astros/leonov.htm
  • http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/apollosoyuz000715.html
  • http://www.geocities.com/athens/4795/Bulgaria.htm

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