Did you know it’s been nearly 50 years since the first spacewalk? On March 18, 1965, Russian Alexei Leonov ventured from the safety of his Russian spacecraft for the first attempt for a person to survive “outside” in a spacesuit. While Leonov had troubles returning to the spacecraft, his brave effort set off a new era of spaceflight. It showed us it was possible for people to work in small spacesuits in space.

Think about what spacewalks have helped us accomplish since then. We’ve walked on the Moon. Constructed the International Space Station. Retrieved satellites. Even flew away from the space shuttle in a jetpack, for a couple of flights in the 1980s.

In this gallery, we’ve highlighted some of the more memorable images from American spacewalks over the years to honor a new Smithsonian Air and Space exhibit opening today (Jan. 8).

Chris Cassidy with Earth as a backdrop during the EVA on May 11, 2013. Credit: NASA.
Ed White did the first American spacewalk in 1965. Obviously, he wore a spacesuit. Credit: NASA
“Knocking on the door to come back in from space after yesterday’s spacewalk,” said Ron Garan via Twitter. Credit: NASA
Astronaut Eugene Cernan from Apollo 17, the last mission to the Moon (NASA)
Astronaut Drew Feustel reenters the space station after completing an 8-hour, 7-minute spacewalk at on Sunday, May 22, 2011. He and fellow spacewalker Mike Fincke conducted the second of the four EVAs during the STS-134 mission. Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman takes a self-portrait visor while participating in the first of three spacewalks. Credit: NASA
NASA Astronaut Bruce McCandless flying in the Manned Maneuvering Unit in 1984. Image Credit: NASA
Astronaut Richard Arnold during the mission’s first spacewalk. Credit: NASA
Dust flies from the tires of a moon buggy, driven by Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan. These “rooster-tails” of dust caused problems. Credit: NASA
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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