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    Spacewalk by Michael Signal

    (1) A Soviet cosmonaut became the first man in space in 1961. Yuri Gagarin's space flight was dangerous, but his Vostok 1 spacecraft protected him from the hazards of space. Almost five years later, another Soviet cosmonaut would become the first man in space, outside of a spacecraft. Alexei Leonov performed the first spacewalk in 1965. Leonov's spacewalk proved that a person could survive in space, outside of a spacecraft. Today, astronauts and cosmonauts use spacewalks to perform all sorts of tasks.
    (2) The first Americans walked in space a few months after Leonov did. Americans and Soviets had proven that they had the technology to keep a man safe, even if he exited his spacecraft. This was no simple task. There is no air to breathe in space, so a space suit must have its own air supply. There are other dangers too. Temperatures can be less than -100 degrees Fahrenheit, or they can soar to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Without a space suit, an astronaut would freeze to death, or bake to a crisp. Another danger comes from cosmic radiation. The Sun and other celestial objects emit radiation that can be very harmful to humans. On Earth, the atmosphere blocks much of the dangerous radiation. Floating outside of a spaceship, an astronaut's only protection comes from a space suit. It is like a mobile, personal habitat.
    (3) Today, astronauts have to perform repair missions and close inspections that cannot be done from inside of a spaceship. Some of the most useful spacewalks repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1990, NASA launched the Hubble into Space. It was supposed to be the most powerful telescope ever launched into orbit, but it was broken. During several spacewalks, astronauts repaired the Hubble's faulty mirror. After the repairs, the telescope worked better than scientists had hoped. The Hubble success proved that astronauts could safely perform complicated tasks during a spacewalk.
    (4) It takes a lot of technology to keep a person safe in space. It takes even more to keep someone safe in space during a spacewalk. Space suits have proven that they can do more than just keep people safe. They give astronauts a portable air supply, regulate temperature, and allow them to complete complex tasks, all while floating through space. Spacesuits are essential mission equipment for any astronaut, and spacewalks are essential activities on most space missions.

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