Alexei Leonov, a cosmonaut of the Soviet era who was the first to make an exit in space in 1965, died Friday in Moscow at the age of 85 following a long illness.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos said it was saddened by the announcement of the death of “cosmonaut No. 11”, who had twice been awarded the country’s highest honor, the hero of the Soviet Union.
Leonov was a close friend of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to visit outer space in 1961.
Leonov trained with Gagarin and was selected for the first spacewalk. The Soviet Union and the United States, enemies of the Cold War on Earth, were locked in a frantic race to conquer space.
In 1965, Leonov made history by leaving a spacecraft on the Voskhod 2 mission for an exit in space of 12 minutes and nine seconds.
“I kindly retired and left the ship,” Leonov, then 80, said in 2015.
“(There was) a black ink, stars everywhere and the sun so bright that I could hardly bear it,” he added.
Attached to the machine by a long 16-foot rope, he gazed with wonder at the geography of the Earth lying beneath him, his homeland perfectly visible.
“I filmed the Earth, the Caucasus, the Crimea, the Volga. It was beautiful, he said.