A shelved Shed project is a collection of True Stories reading for boys – a bad lack in conventional schooling.
We like the kind of subjects which used to get us poring through text in comics like Rover, before storyboard telling became universal. And a certain qualifier would be a retelling of Alexei Leonov’s first space walk, in 1965, prompted by an exhibition about Russian spacemen at the Science Museum, London.
It was summed up somewhere as something like Spaceman Swam In His Own Sweat While Stuck In Orbiting Iron Tomb and that would be The Shed’s provisional headline.
Leonov, by all accounts still a mighty man, gave an interview to Tom Whipple in The Times which you can find at
although it is behind The Times paywall.
The Shed borrowed a summary from The Week magazine …
Alexei Leonov was the first person to walk in space – and it almost killed him. On 18 March 1965, the Russian cosmonaut stepped out of his spacecraft, 300 miles above the Earth.
“It was absolutely still. I heard the beating of my heart; I heard my heavy breath,” he told Tom Whipple in The Times.
Leonov’s job was to answer the crucial question of whether it was possible for an astronaut to move around safely, and capably, in open space.
“The sailor on board the ship is obliged to be able to maintain the vessel in the open sea,” he explains. “The cosmonaut is obliged to be able to maintain his spacecraft in open space.”
But eight minutes into his spacewalk, Leonov realised something was very wrong: his suit was gradually inflating.
“I couldn’t feel my boots any more. I couldn’t feel my gloves. I realised I was floating inside my suit.”
Soon his gloves were so swollen he couldn’t bend his fingers. He had no choice but to expel the air in his spacesuit, risking suffocation or compression sickness.
“The nitrogen in the blood begins to boil. I felt it starting. I felt the trembling in my fingers.”
To make matters worse, he couldn’t get back into the airlock the right way round (feet first, in order to close the hatch), and had to go head first instead.
“After I entered, I had to turn around again. The diameter of the airlock is 120 cm. I am 190 kg with a suit. In 12 minutes I lost 6kg (of body weight) because of the sweating. I still don’t know how I did it.”
But he made it back to Earth, where he gave his verdict.
“I reported one sentence: ‘If a man has a proper suiit and proper training, he is able to work in open space.’ That’s it. End of report.”
Cosmonauts: Birth Of The Space Age, is still on at the Science Museum, London, at the time of writing and for the foreseeable: posted 6.10.2015.