On March 18, 1965 Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made the first spacewalk in history, floating outside his Voskhod 2 capsule. Leonov made the walk when he was just 30 years old, and later wrote that he felt “like a seagull with its wings outstretched, soaring high above the Earth.” His spacewalk lasted just 12 minutes but that was long enough to prove that humans in space could work outside a spacecraft.
Author and space historian Andrew Chaikin created some unique 3-D views of Leonov’s spacewalk, made from individual frames from the movie of the walk. Above is a red-cyan anaglyph, but if you don’t have your 3-D glasses available, don’t worry: Chaikin has also created stereo pair 3-D images, which you can view by crossing your eyes (explanation below, if you need a little help).
Oxford University provides this explanation of how to cross your eyes to view a stereo pair as a 3-D image:
Hold a finger a short distance in front of your eyes and stare at it. In the background you should see two copies of the stereo pair, giving four views altogether. Move your finger away from you until you see the middle two of the four images come together. You should now see just three images in the background. Try to direct your attention slowly toward the middle image without moving your eyes, and it should gradually come into focus.
While the spacewalk was exhilarating, getting back into the spacecraft became dicey. Leonov’s spacesuit expanded so much in the vacuum of space that he had a hard time squeezing back into the spacecraft. He took a risk and opened a valve on the suit to let enough air escape, which allowed him to enter the airlock.
Leonov’s walk took place almost 3 months before American astronaut Ed White took his spacewalk on Gemini 4. The first European to do a spacewalk was the French spationaute Jean-Loup Chrétien, who flew to the Russian Mir space station in 1988.
Thanks to Andrew Chaikin for sharing these images with Universe Today.
Here is some color footage of the spacewalk:
The BBC has created a special webpage to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Leonov’s spacewalk. ESA has a gallery of images from 50 years of spacewalks.