When the first man walked in space, almost nobody knew that it was happening.
Cautious about counting their cosmonaut before he was through the hatch, Soviet space officials kept the plan quiet until after success had been achieved. Aleksei Leonov had already safely returned to the Voskhod II spacecraft — 50 years ago today, on March 18, 1965 — before the Soviet space agency announced that he had left the ship and released photos and video of what had happened. (These days, the English spelling of the cosmonaut’s first name is more frequently “Alexei”; in 1965, however, this magazine spelled it with a “ks.”) The shots showed Leonov emerging from the craft’s hatch before turning a few somersaults to begin his 20 minutes in the nothingness.
The news wasn’t a complete surprise for the rest of the world, however. As TIME explained, U.S. radars had been following the Voskhod II…
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