NW045 WORLD'S FIRST SPACEWALKERS
18.3.1965 Alexei Leonov - 3.6.1965 Ed White
In the spring of 1965 the space race was at its height. The
Soviet Union achieved another in its series of space spectaculars
when Alexei Leonov made the world's first space walk on March 18,
1965. The United States responded less than three months later
when Ed White ventured into the black void of space as he sallied
forth from Gemini IV. This New Ware kit commerates these heroic
space walkers with dual figures of Alexei Leonov and Ed White in
1/24th scale sculpted by Ignacio Bernacer Alpera of Spain.
While Voskhod 2 was completing its first orbit, thirty year old Alexei Leonov entered an inflatible airlock attached to the descent module. After depressurising the airlock, the cosmonaut was highly elated as space he floated in space for about 12 minutes. When attempting to enter the airlock again Leonov faced a dilemna. His Berkut spacesuit had ballooned and become rigid so Leonov couldn't get back into the capsule correctly. Without consulting ground control, Leonov lowered the air pressure within his spacesuit risking the bends. The commander of Voskhod 2, Pavel Belyayev assited Leonov by pulling him head first back into the capsule. Voskhod 2 had further difficulties when its attitude control sensor failed and it landed in very deep snow in the Ural Mountains 386 kilometers away from its target. The cosmonauts had to spend two nights in the forest in their capsule before recovery tems were able to bring them back to the Baikinour Cosmodrome.
Leonov was born on May 30, 1934 and was among the first group of cosmonauts selected in 1960. According to many sources Leonov would have been the first Soviet citizen on the moon had the N-1 and lunar landing programs been successful. Leonov later commanded the Soviet portion of the Apollo -Soyuz Test Project in 1975. Leonov's experiences as the world's first space walker serve as the inspriation for many of his paintings. Leonov still resides in Star City on the outskirts of Moscow.
Just five days following the launch of Voskhod 2, the first manned flight of the Gemini program, Gemini III, blasted off from Cape Kennedy. The response to Leonov's feat was to advance America's first space walk that originally had been scheduled for late 1965 to Gemini IV, which was the next mission. While the approval process was still pending, sealed procedures for the space walk were sent to the stations comprising the tracking network. Only when all approvals were provided a few days before the flight were the procedures opened.
On June 3, 1965 Gemini IV carrying James McDivitt and Ed White was launched for a four day mission on top of a Titan II rocket. On the third orbit as the capsule approached Hawaii the hatch was opened and Ed White became America's first space walker. Though it had been planned for less than three months, Ed White made space walking appear deceptively easy. Images of Ed White floating outside the capsule propelled by his Hand Held Maneuvering Unit (HHMU) are among the most widely published images of the 20th century. After about 20 minutes, as Gemini IV flew past Florida, Ed White returned to the capsule after a magnificent space walk across the breadth of America. Gemini IV successfully completed the rest of its four day mission to set a new duration record for American spaceflight.
Ed White was born on November 14, 1930 and was selected as one of the second group of astronauts in 1962. Due to his sucess as America's first space walker he was chosen as the Command Module Pilot for Apollo I, the first manned flight of the Apollo program. Tragically on January 27, 1967, Ed White, along with Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, died when a fire broke out in the Apollo capsule during a Saturn I B launch simulation at Cape Kennedy.