Alexei Leonov, First Person to Walk in Space, Dies at 85

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Alexei Leonov, the first person ever to spacewalk, has died, The Independent says.

Leonov celebrated his 85th birthday on May 30 and cosmonauts Kononenko and Alexei Ovchinin dedicated a May spacewalk to him, taking a picture of him into space and wearing spacesuits with birthday greetings written on the back.

Leonov was one of the Soviet Union's first group of cosmonauts, and he trained alongside Yuri Gagarin, the first man to go into space.

The future cosmonaut had a strong artistic talent and even thought about going to art school before he enrolled in a pilot training course and, later, an aviation college. "I was surrounded by stars and was floating without much control". Leonov famously risked death when he did the first spacewalk back in 1965, proving that a human being could survive in the vastness of space outside the confines of a craft. In the vacuum of space, his suit had ballooned to the point that it would not fit through the hatch.

Leonov is two time Hero of the Soviet Union.

Leonov flew again in 1975 during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, commanding a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft that docked with the last American Apollo capsule, which was under the command of astronaut Donald "Deke" Slayton.

Leonov was also known as an author and painter, with some of his works used on Soviet postage stamps. It involved the docking of the US Apollo and the Soviet Soyuz-19 spacecraft.

"You have made a great contribution to Russian cosmonautics and have promoted its outstanding achievements", Putin has said.

Messages of condolences poured in from around the globe following news of his death.

As U.S. astronauts Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch wrapped up a successful seven-hour spacewalk, the rest of the station crew paid tribute to Leonov.

Roscosmos said Mr Leonov's funeral will take place on Tuesday at a military cemetery outside Moscow.

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