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.
Air Force Lt. Col. Edward White II, who died at Cape Kennedy with fellow astronauts Air Force Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom and Navy Lt. Comdr. Roger B. Chaffee, is shown as he clambered from the Gemini 4 spacecraft to become the first American to walk in space. The space walk came during his 1965 flight with James McDivitt. (AP Photo)
Astronaut Ed White faces the Gemini 4 capsule during his 20-minute space “walk” on June 8, 1965. In his right hand, White holds his oxygen space gun to maneuver around the capsule. A 35-mm camera is attached to the space gun. Astronaut James McDivitt took this photograph with a Hasselblad camera. (AP Photo/NASA/James McDivitt)
The Titan II rocket carrying the Gemini IV spacecraft on its nose lifts from launch pad LC-19 at Cape Kennedy, Fla., at 10:15 am, EST, June 3, 1965. The crew members of the Gemini IV mission are astronauts James H. McDivitt, commander, and Edward H. White II, pilot. On their third orbit, White left the vehicle for a 20-minute “walk” in space. (AP Photo)
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.
American astronaut Eugene Cernan is seen outside his Gemini 9 spacecraft as he conducts extravehicular activity (EVA) while testing the astronaut maneuvering unit, on June 5, 1966. Cernan set a new record in EVA endurance time as he spent 2 hours and 9 minutes spacewalking. (AP Photo)
This view shows the augmented target docking adapter (ATDA) made from the Gemini 9 space capsule by astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan, June 3, 1966. (AP Photo)
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.
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