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How the Historic First Spacewalk Worked (Infographic)

Diagram of Leonov's spacewalk.
When Alexi Leonov stepped out of his Voskhod 2 capsule, he became the first spacewalker ever. (Image credit: By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

On March 18, 1965, cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first person ever exit a space vehicle and take a so-called "spacewalk."

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The Voskhod ("Sunrise") was a modifed Vostok capsule such as was used by Yuri Gagarin. The 16.4-foot (5 meters) Voskhod carried two or three cosmonauts for up to 14 days in Earth orbit.

Commander Pavel Belyayev remained in the pressurized cabin, wearing a spacesuit identical to Leonov's in case a rescue was needed.

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After 12 minutes of spacewalking, Leonov discovered that his spacesuit had over-inflated so much that he could not return through the hatch. As a desperate last resort, Leonov opened a valve to let the pressure out of the suit. When the suit deflated enough, Leonov was able to squeeze through the hatch.

The first American spacewalk followed just a few months later, on June 3, 1965, when NASA astronaut Ed White floated outside his Gemini 4 space capsule for a 23 minute excursion while crewmate James McDevitt remained inside.

White used a prototype gas gun to maneuver around outside the capsule, and remained connected to the ship via an umbilical-cord like tether.

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Karl Tate
Karl's association with SPACE.com goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. Starting in 2010, Karl has been TechMediaNetwork's infographics specialist across all editorial properties.  Before joining SPACE.com, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating  news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Karl on Google+.

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