Mental Floss posted a piece this week entitled 4 Ridiculous Space Accidents (Where Everyone Survived). The whole thing is excellent and well worth reading, but the first story was so good that I couldn’t risk you not clicking over and missing it.
Heads up, screen writers and producers: There is a movie here.
In the 1960s the Soviets took a great leap forward in the space race when they sent Voskhod 2 into orbit with two cosmonauts aboard. One of them, pilot Alexey Leonov, became the first human to leave a spacecraft and perform a spacewalk. While an impressive feat, it came very close to disaster: the Soviets had failed to account for the effect of the vacuum of space on Leonov’s spacesuit.
After 12 minutes outside the craft, the cosmonaut found that he could not bend his suit sufficiently to return through the hatch. Soviet television had to cut away because they feared the worst. By opening a valve in the suit, he was able to reduce the pressure enough to get back in. Once inside, Leonov and his co-pilot could barely get the hatch closed. At the time, reports never indicated that Leonov had any trouble during his spacewalk, but the cosmonaut later revealed that his 12-minute ordeal left him up to his knees in sweat—it filled the legs of his spacesuit. And had the spacewalk gone any more awry, Leonov had a suicide pill handy.
After Leonov and Belyayev were safely inside, they found that there was so little room in the capsule that they couldn’t actually get back in their seats, throwing off Voskhod’s center of gravity. On reentry, they ended up hundreds of miles off-course. The men were forced to spend a night in the woods of Siberia, and while the door had been blown off on impact, they were at least heavily armed to protect themselves from wolves and bears. Although helicopters located the cosmonauts, the woods were too thick to land and the two were not rescued until the next day.