In many respects the Soviet Union was ahead of the United States in the Space Race for several years, especially the early efforts in the 1950s, with the launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957.
They also beat the US to the famous activity of 'spacewalking' - that is, common jargon for conducting extra-vehicular activity while in space. Cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, a Soviet Air Force pilot, was chosen for the task.
Leonov exited the capsule of his Voshkod 2 mission spacecraft for 12 minutes and nine seconds on March 18, 1965. His spacesuit had inflated so much in the vacuum of space that he could barely get back inside the capsule at the end: he had to open a valve on his suit to let some pressure out before just making it back inside.
America wasn't far behind: the first spacewalk of a US astronaut occurred just 3 months later when Edward H. White II went outside his capsule on the Gemini IV mission.
- 1965-03-18 Cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, leaving his spacecraft Voskhod 2 for 12 minutes, becomes the first person to walk in space
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