by BBC Magazine
Alexei Leonov did not feel as if he was in motion as he clambered on to the outside of the spacecraft, 500km above the Earth.
But in reality, he was hurtling around our planet at speeds that are many times faster than a jet aircraft.
The vast, vivid geography of our planet stretched out before him - a giant canvas of contrasting colours and textures.
He was the first of his species to see our planet in such glorious aspect. The Russian was quickly overwhelmed:
«You just can’t comprehend it. Only out there can you feel the greatness - the huge size of all that surrounds us.»
News of the first ever spacewalk on 18 March 1965 was received with shock and delight. It took place against a battle for supremacy in space between the US and the USSR.
The Voskhod 2 mission was hailed as a propaganda coup for the Soviet Union and as a blow to American pride.
But this triumphant narrative bore little resemblance to what actually took place behind the scenes.
Leonov, now 80, has given a rare interview to the BBC in which he talks about the series of emergencies that made the trek back to Earth worthy of any Hollywood movie.
Minutes after he stepped into space, Leonov realised his suit had inflated like a balloon, preventing him from getting back inside.
Later on, the cosmonauts narrowly avoided being obliterated in a huge fireball when oxygen levels soared inside the craft.
And on the way back to Earth, the crew was exposed to enormous G-forces, landing hundreds of kilometres off target in a remote corner of Siberia populated by wolves and bears.
Afterwards, the Soviet authorities revealed nothing about the problems. For years, few people knew the truth.
This was not unusual. America’s successes and failures took place in the full glare of public attention. But the Soviets were obsessive about controlling the message through secrecy and censorship.
Author Paul Rincon
Interviews Michael Lachmann
Online producer Paul Kerley, Stephen Mulvey
Features editor Giles Wilson
Web development Nzar Tofiq Built with Shorthand
Published13 Oct 2014
Producer Fiona Cushley
Camera Neil Kent
Film editor StJohn Bowman
Opening image Above the Black Sea by Alexei Leonov
(Ria Novosti/Science Photo Library)
Photographs Ria Novosti/Science
Photo Library and Getty Images
3D Graphics Charles Gatward