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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 10. 1965.


A Photograph of the moon's surface, taken by Ranger IX from 775 miles up, 9min 18sec before impact.

A Photograph of the moon's surface, taken by Ranger IX from 775 miles up, 9min 18sec before impact.

At The End of March this year the world had four new heroes to join the growing list of space age explorers. They were Pavel, Belyaev and Aleksel Leonov of the Soviet Union and Virgil Grissom and John Young of the United States. The two pairs of spacemen had circled the earth and had measurably contributed in their various ways to solving the problems of future space travel.

At 10am Moscow time on March 18 a Soviet booster rocket orbited the spaceship Voskhod 2 manned by Belyaev and Leonov. The ship travelled the customary route of Soviet space vehicles: northeasterly across Siberia, then southeast along the central axis of the Pacific Ocean, crossing the Atlantic at an angle of 65 degrees.

As the Voskhod 2 completed its first orbit, Leonov entered a special compartment, or air lock, sealed off from the main cabin in which Belyaev continued to check the craft's controls. Oxygen in the air lock was then slowly drained by allowing it to escape into the void of space. With the air lock drained (had this not been done the cosmonaut would have been blown out like a pea from a peashooter), the hatch was opened. Colonel Leonov then stuck his head and shoulders out. He grasped a handrail, lifted his feet out of the airlock and extended them sideways.

With a shove he then sailed off about 15ft from the spacecraft, linked to it only by a tether line. This line carried his communication link with his fellow cosmonaut, and oxygen that he breathed. Colonel Belyaev drifted along with the spaceship. He did not fall behind it or drop towards Earth (Newton's first law of motion: A body in motion will remain in a state of uniform motion unless acted upon by some outside force). Since he had gone through the same acceleration as his ship, he was in orbit just as it was. Since both were speeding through a virtual vacuum, there was no air drag.

Twenty-six hours and two minutes after launching the cosmonauts landed the Voskhod 2 near Perm, a town west of the Ural Mountains and 700 miles north-east of Moscow, thus completing the first "space walk" accomplished by man. The scientific importance of the feat lies in the fact that it proves the feasibility of some of the space planners' ideas. It has been assumed that astronauts eventually would be able to float in space to make repairs and perform other tasks, including even the assembly of platforms and other craft in space.