Cosmonaut–Artist Alexei Leonov (1934-2019)
Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, inspired by his first flight, says: "I'll definitely take paints or, in the worst case, pencils on board. You see, everyone who flew was fascinated by the colours of the dawn as seen from space..."
Many people knew cosmonaut Leonov as a good artist. Painting, in which he became interested in his youth, was his hobby until his last days.
Alexei Leonov's life and biography could have turned out very differently if not for certain circumstances. Alexei has had excellent drawing skills since his childhood. After finishing school, he entered the Riga Academy of Fine Arts in 1953. The young man was included in the list of first-year students. However, it later turned out that students could only be granted a dormitory after three years of study. Alexei was not satisfied with this option and he started to choose among other educational institutions.
In 1957, he graduated from the Chuguev Military Avation School. In 1960, he was admitted to the cosmonaut training group. In 1968, he graduated from the N. Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy. However, in order to satisfy his passion for art, Leonov studied part-time at the Academy of Fine Arts in Riga.
Alexei Leonov was a close friend of Yuri Gagarin (who became the first man to go into space in 1961). In 1965, A. Leonov made history when he participated in the Voskhod-2 mission, left his spacecraft and spent 12 minutes and 9 seconds in open space. During that time, he walked 5 metres away from the vehicle. For the first time, he visually observed atmospheric optical phenomena on Earth's darkened horizon.
In July 1975, A. Leonov took part in the first-ever joint flight of the USSR Soyuz-19 spacecraft and the US Apollo spacecraft. During this flight, Leonov took coloured pencils and paper into space, where he drew a sketch of the Earth and portraits of the Apollo astronauts who had flown with him during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.
The Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology has a collection of reproduction postcards of the artworks of the artist-cosmonaut Alexei Leonov and the artist-fantasist Andrei Sokolov, which reflect their talent.
Prepared by Jolanta Slavinskienė, Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology