Alexei Leonov

Alexei Leonov 84, was the first man to "walk" in space on March 18, 1965. Though he was expected to become a professional artist, aviation beckoned and Leonov was soon flying jets and studying engineering. When the call came for Cosmonaut candidates in 1959, 25 year old Leonov was picked as one of the first 20 Cosmonauts.

Leonov's space walk beat Astronaut Ed White's by three months. Leonov's Voskhod capsule carried two men, like Gemini, but the Soviets constructed an inflatable airlock for Leonov's spacewalk. There were tense moments when Leonov found his spacesuit too rigid to reenter the airlock. Leonov bled air out of his suit, but was barely able to return. Later, a rocket malfunction forced Leonov and his crewmate to land in mountains and deep snow, with wolves growling and scratching at Voskhod's partly open hatch.

We carry these art prints by Alexei Leonov

All signed by the artist and numbered.

Leonov was to be the Commander of the first Soviet Moon mission, cancelled when Apollo 11 took the prize in 1969. Leonov and lunar co-pilot Valery Kubasov were then assigned to Salyut 1, the first Soviet space station. But Kubasov fell ill, and the backup crew sent to Salyut died when an air valve failed in their spacecraft as they were returning to Earth.

Leonov and Kubasov were re-assigned to the Apollo-Soyuz project, the first linking of Soviet and American spacecraft in 1975. Leonov trained in Houston, learning English and impressing everyone with his quick wit, humor, and charm.

General Leonov is a Renaissance man; a gifted athlete, pilot and self-taught artist. He is a highly decorated survivor of the harrowing days of the U.S.-Soviet Space Race. He has cheated death several times, in an early parachute accident, then twice aboard his Voskhod 2 spacewalk mission. Leonov would have died in place of his backup crew had not Valery Kubasov fallen ill before their Salyut-1 flight. Leonov also survived when his car skidded and plunged into a deep ice-covered lake. Leonov heroically pulled his wife and driver to safety. He survived an assasination attempt on Premier Brezhnev when their car was showered in with bullets. The driver was killed, but Leonov managed to crouch behind the seat.

Leonov has always indulged in his love of art, painting everything from stoic Russian churches, Siberian snow scenes and of course, space art. As the first artist in space, Leonov often paints from actual color sketches done in space aboard his two flights. Although self-taught, his works show a polish and realism typical of a trained professional. After a joint exhibition with American space artists in Moscow, he led the Soviet space artists to the International Space Art Workshop held in Iceland the following year. Leonov's works have been displayed all over the former Soviet Union, and at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. He has been published in several books (in Russian) and in "In The Stream of Stars: The Soviet-American Space Art Book" by Dr. William K. Hartmann.

General Leonov is deputy director of Gagarin Cosmonaut Center, in charge of international and guest cosmonauts. He is also editor, designer, and cartoonist for APOGEE, the formerly supersecret cosmonaut newsletter. His wife Svetlana is a teacher, and they have two daughters, Viktoria and Oksana.