U.S. Coin Price Guide

Coin Collecting

Buy Coin Supplies

Latest Revolutionary Coin Recalls First Space Walk
By Kerry Rodgers

Two years back the Cook Islands reminded us of the launch of Sputnik. Last year the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, got the nod. Most of us will have had little trouble recalling both names. However, unless you are a real space buff the name Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov may well tax your long-term memory banks.

Alexei was the first guy to open the door 300 miles up and engage in some extravehicular activity, truly boldly going where no man had gone before.

The Cook Islands have celebrated this extraordinary feat with the latest issue in their revolutionary Orbit and Beyond Series coins. As with the past two issues the pictorial reverse, that shows Alexei tethered to Voskhod II, can revolve around a representation of the Blue Marble as seen from space. The obverse carries Raphael Maklouf's effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. The legal tender coin is struck from 1 ounce of .999 fine silver and has a mintage of 25,000.

1965: A Veritable Space Odyssey

Alexei Leonov was 26 when he became one of 20 Soviet air force pilots selected to form the first cosmonaut group in 1960.

He was chosen for the prestigious space walk project for which he undertook 18 months of intense weightlessness training. The historic event took place on March 18, 1965. It was the first time an airlock had been opened in space. The craft's designer, Sergey Korolev, had rejected the idea of depressurizing the craft, as could happen with America's Gemini, and insisted on using an airlock.

For 12 minutes Alexei floated connected to the craft by a five-foot tether. He then found he had a problem. His suit had ballooned so as to seriously constrict his movements. Worse, his hands and feet had been forced from his gloves and boots. And he was far too large to fit through the airlock.

Without consulting ground control, Leonov used a special valve to drop the pressure inside the suit by almost 200 percent.

"I decided I was breathing oxygen long enough to prevent boiling nitrogen in the blood," Leonov said. "There was some risk, but I had nothing else to do, and once I did, everything started going normal."

He managed to squeeze into the airlock but now found he couldn't close the hatch. While he battled to do so, he was running out of oxygen and his suit filled with sweat up to the ankles. At last he managed to rejoin his somewhat concerned co-pilot, Commander Belyaev.

But There's More!

The crew was not out of the woods. When they jettisoned the airlock, it disabled the sun sensor necessary for orientation on re-entry. The craft began tumbling and the crew achieved re-entry only by flying Voskhod manually. This led them to head for a new landing site hundreds of miles from the planned area. When they did land it was in a forest and the first help arrived 24 hours later in the shape of local timber workers.

The two cosmonauts had to spend three days among the timber before sufficient trees were felled to enable rescue helicopters to land.

In 1968 Alexei was selected as commander of a circumlunar Soyuz flight, but all unmanned test flights of this project failed and then Apollo 8 beat the USSR to the draw.

Next up, he was designated to become the first Soviet citizen to land on the moon aboard the LOK/N1 spacecraft, but this project too was canned.

He also missed out on commanding one of the series of Soyuz missions to Salyut 1 in the early 1970s, several of which were ill-fated. Finally he got his second trip into space when he lead the Soviet side of the Apollo-Soyuz mission, the first joint space mission between the Soviet Union and U.S.

From 1976 to 1982, he was the commander of the cosmonaut team and deputy director of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. He retired in 1991 as a full general.

Sci-fi enthusiasts will be aware that Alexei is a talented artist. He took colored pencils and paper into space. His works include portraits of Apollo astronauts who flew with him.

The alignment of the moon, Earth, and sun shown at the opening of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey is very similar to a 1967 painting by Alexei titled "Near the Moon." A signed version of this painting hung on Arthur C. Clarke's office wall. Clarke showed his gratitude when in 2010: Odyssey Two he named his fictional spaceship Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov.

In 2006 Alexei Leonov and American astronaut David Scott published their co-authored book telling the story of the space race: Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race. The book carries introductions by Neil Armstrong and Tom Hanks.

If you wish to gain a remarkable memorial of Alexei's remarkable adventure, first try your friendly neighborhood coin dealer. If they are unable to supply, go to www.perthmint.com.au or write Perth Mint, 310 Hay St., East Perth, WA 6004, Australia.

? 1992-2018 DC2NET?, Inc. All Rights Reserved