Free Floating in Space


maxresdefaultIt has been just over 51 years since the first man freely floated in space. Alexei Leonov, a Soviet cosmonaut. Leonov spent 12 minutes floating in space above planet Earth tethered to his ship by a 16ft cable.

Though the idea of walking in space seems to be somewhat routine in the exploration of space; there have been more than 200 astronauts that have floated in space on EVAs since Leonov, undertaking tasks that range from making repairs to the Hubble telescope to building the International Space Station.

Leonov’s Space Walk

On 18th March 1965, Leonov took off in the Voskhod 2 capsule that he shared with Commander Pavel Belyayev.

Leonov was no stranger to the idea of space travel, he had been the man who trained Yuri Gagarin after all, and he was going to make his own journey amongst the stars.

In an interview last year with the Observer, Leonov commented, “It was so quiet I could even hear my heart beat. I was surrounded by stars and was floating without much control. I will never forget the moment. I also felt an incredible sense of responsibility. Of course, I did not know that I was about to experience the most difficult moments of my life – getting back into the capsule.”

The capsule made one orbit around the Earth before Leonov was given the green light for his spacewalk. The first portion of the spacewalk was a success, but when it came to getting back into the capsule, things started to go wrong.

The vacuum in space had caused his spacesuit to begin to balloon out of shape. The fabric became dangerous stiff, his hands slipped out of his gloves and his feet slipped out of the boots – worst of all, Leonov couldn’t fit back through the airlock.

The spacecraft was moving in an orbit around the Earth all the time Leonov was out making his spacewalk, and he had only five minutes to get back into the capsule before they reached the dark side of the Earth.

Aleksey_Leonov_ASTP_-_croppedIn order to shrink the suit, Leonov began to bleed the air from it and the suit began to return to normal size. However, it was at this point that Leonov realised that he was exhibiting the first signs of decompression sickness.

Despite this, Leonov managed to squeeze himself, head first, back through the airlock. His temperature was through the roof and he collapsed back in his seat, beside Belyayev in an exhausted state. But his troubles were not over yet.

The airlock was no longer needed, so it was fired off into space. The force of the explosion caused Voskhod 2 to rotate, causing both Leonov and Belyayev to become disorientated. The instruments showed that the oxygen levels in the capsule were rapidly climbing and threatened to start a fire that would have burned both men alive. For several hours the two men worked tireless to get the oxygen levels back to normal, and they were successful.

496806332The two men were due to return to Earth, however there was yet more drama to unfold for the two men. The automatic re-entry system no longer worked. This meant that the men had to fire the re-entry rockets manually. The rockets were designed to separate the landing capsule from the orbital module, but things didn’t work out quite as they planned.

A few seconds after the firing of the engine, we felt a jolt as the orbital module separated from our cabin – but something went wrong. We felt a tugging force pulling us back! I looked out of a window and saw the orbital module was still connected to us by a communications cable. As a result, both modules were spinning rapidly as we fell steeply to Earth!

Fortunately for both Leonov and Belyayev, the heat generated by the re-entry burned through the communications cable, finally separating the landing capsule and orbital module.

The two men landed 2,000 km away from their intended landing zone in the Siberian forest. It took two days for the two men to be found and rescued. The two cosmonauts had to survive in temperatures below zero in a forest that was inhabited by wolves and bears.

Both men survived until they were rescued, however, Belyayev died five years later. He contracted peritonitis after an operation on a stomach ulcer. Leonov was scheduled to be the first cosmonaut to walk on the moon, however the rocket that was to take him there was scrapped after several failed test flights. 118785main_astp_hatch_full.jpg

Leonov’s space career didn’t end with floating in space though, in 1975 he commanded the Soviet Soyuz that docked with the Apollo capsule, an event that marked the end of the space race.

First Time

A movie, due to be released in Russia this year, goes through the events of Leonov’s spacewalk, including the moments that almost ended in disaster.

In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.

Yuri Gagarin



Yuri Gagarin was the pilot of Vostok 1 and the first man in space to orbit the earth. He was born near Moscow on 9th March 1934 in the former Soviet Union.

He joined the Soviet Air Force in 1955 and was training to become a cosmonaut by 1959. It was on 12th April 1961 that Yuri Gagarin blasted off into space on Vostok 1.



04-gagarin-vostok1_34445_600x450Vostok 1 was a craft that was split into two parts. The first was the compartment where Yuri Gagarin sat and operated the controls of the spacecraft. The other section was filled with supplies such as oxygen and water.

Vostok 1 travelled at a speed of 27,400 kph whilst it circled the earth. The flight lasted 108 minutes. When it came to re-entry, Vostok 1 was controlled by a computer. Yuri Gagarin didn’t land in Vostok 1,instead he ejected from the spacecraft and parachuted down to earth again.


This was Yuri Gagarin’s only venture into space. He was killed in a plane crash on 27th March 1968.



Yuri-Gagarin (1)

There is a crater on the far side of the moon that is named for Yuri Gagarin.

In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.

The Space Race


The space race started in the late 1950s.

The Soviet Union and the USA were locked into the Cold War and getting man into space and onto the moon first was what the space race was all about. Of course it was a little more complicated than simply wanting to be first.

The two powers wanted to prove their their particular system of governance was better – the Soviet Union had communism and the United States had capitalism. Whichever side had the superior technology and military firepower would prove it had the superior political-economic system.


Sputnik was launched on 4th October 1957 and was the first artificial satellite that was put into orbit. It’s launch was a surprise to the Americans, especially since it was launched using a Soviet R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile.

Explorer 1

In 1958 the US launched their own satellite, Explorer 1 and President Eisenhower signed the public order that created NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Luna 2

Luna 2 was the Soviets next big push into space, as it was the first space probe to hit the moon.

Yuri Gagarin

Then came yet another first by the Soviets – on 12th April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the earth in Vostock 1. Alan Shepard became the first American in space on 5th May 1961, though he didn’t orbit the earth. It wasn’t until February 1962 when John Glenn went into space that the Americans orbited the earth.

The Apollo Program

In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy made a very bold statement – that the US would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

Throughout the 1960s, 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 contractors poured their efforts into getting man on the moon.

On 27th January 1967, the Apollo 1 tragedy claimed the lives of Edward White, Command Pilot; Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom, Commander and Roger Chaffee, Pilot. The Apollo 1 spacecraft caught fire during a launch simulation and the three astronauts couldn’t escape the flames.

In December 1968, Apollo 8 was launched as the first manned space mission to orbit the moon.

Apollo 11

On 16th July 1969 Neil Armstrong, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off in Apollo 11 to attempt the first moon landing in history.

Of course we know now that they were successful and the immortal words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” have become forever etched into our minds, but at the time there were no guarantees and more than a few nervous people anxiously waiting to hear whether the United States had done the unimaginable and actually put a man on the moon.

The End of the Space Race

By landing on the moon, the United States had won the space race. The Soviets still tried to make their own moon landing, and had four failed attempts between 1969 and 1972. One of these attempts included a launch-pad explosion in July 1969.

As the United States had won the space race, public interest in lunar missions began to dwindle and the Apollo 13 mission was barely mentioned or even broadcast until it encountered a catastrophic failure during the mission flight.

Yet today, we are still fascinated by space, the exploration of it and the possibility that we will one day travel between different worlds and discover new life out there amongst the stars.

In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.