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Fifty years after Alexei Leonov carried out the first spacewalk he still vividly recalls the moment he emerged from the capsule to become the only human to have floated in the cosmos.The historic moment on March 18, 1965, came as the Soviet Union and United States, Cold War foes on Earth, were locked in a frantic race to conquer space.With the Americans preparing for their own spacewalk, Leonov and pilot Pavel Belyayev (codenames Almaz-1 and Almaz-2) were rocketed almost 500 kilometers into orbit.Leonov's 12 minutes in space were the result of years of frantic work as the USSR struggled feverishly to keep ahead of America in the contest for outer space.Eventually space chief Sergei Korolyov saw in Leonov the qualities he wanted and handpicked the cosmonaut to carry out the historic mission.After 18 months of intensive training Leonov was finally ready to become the first man to drift through space.Welcomed back as heroes, Leonov and Belyayev completed man's first spacewalk 10 weeks before the United States.A decade later in 1975 Leonov commanded the Soyuz 19 in the first joint space mission between the Soviet Union and the United States.
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