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50 Years of Spacewalks

Last Wednesday marked a half-century since the first human spacewalk, performed on 18th March 1965 by Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov. As Time pointed out, Leonov came from relatively humble stock. Born in a coal mining region of Siberia and growing up with eight brothers and sisters, his career in space lifted him far beyond these simple origins. Importantly, this came at a time of geopolitical tension, and this remarkable cosmic achievement marked a key milestone for humanity as a whole.

Fittingly, the next time Leonov took to space was a decade later when, as the Guardian notes, he commanded the Soviet half of the 1975 joint Apollo-Soyuz mission which formally ended the space race. The atmosphere in the global space industry since then has been much more harmonious, with the spirit of cooperation eventually leading to ambitious and successful multinational projects such as the International Space Station. It is this kind of exploration and partnership which Leonov himself evidently favours. He stated recently, “there have never been frontiers between astronauts. The day this notion sinks into the minds of politicians, our planet will be different.”

As I highlighted in an op-ed on the space industry, the scientific community and investors alike continue to look beyond politics for new opportunities to push the boundaries of human achievement and international cooperation.

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