NASA broke into its live broadcast of a spacewalk by two Americans outside the International Space Station to report that Alexei Leonov, the Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human to walk in space, had died.
"He died today in Moscow at the Burdenko hospital after a long illness", Natalia Filimonova told AFP.
The cosmonaut who made history by exiting his capsule for 12 minutes nearly 54 years ago will be laid to rest next Tuesday at a federal military cemetery.
His death was announced Friday, Oct. 11, by Roscosmos, Russia's space agency.
Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey included recordings of Leonov's breathing in space.
Alexei #Leonov, a decorated Russian veteran #cosmonaut and the first man to have carried out a #spacewalk back in 1965, passed away in Moscow at the age of 85. Apollo-Soyuz 19 was a prelude to the worldwide cooperation seen aboard the current global Space Station.
Leonov, who grew to become a legend in Russian Federation, celebrated his 85th birthday in Might. Leonov struggled to re-enter the spacecraft because his space suit had ballooned beyond the diameter of the hatch.
He later trained other cosmonauts.
Leonov underwent 18 months of intensive training before his mission.
Still, he went on to lead the Soviet half of the Soyuz-Apollo mission, which a decade later became the first joint space mission with the United States.
The flight and spacewalk were successful on the whole, but his return to Earth almost ended in tragedy when Mr Leonov and another cosmonaut, Mr Pavel Belyayev, crash-landed in the Siberian woods.
Two NASA astronauts are now outside the International Space Station on the second of several planned spacewalks to replace batteries affixed to the outside of the spacecraft. Leonov made two space flights that lasted a total of seven days and 33 minutes.
"Alexi Leonov was one of the greats in spaceflight", said Bruce Pittman, Senior Operating Officer of the NSS.
Leonov's funeral will be held next Tuesday at the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery in the Russian capital.