MOSCOW -- A Soviet cosmonaut left his space ship for 20 minutes today while orbiting the earth. He turned a jubilant somersault before returning safely to the craft.
The first space pedestrian and a companion cosmonaut were hurled into orbit today aboard the spaceship Voskhod (Sunrise) II. For about 20 minutes one spaceman was outside the ship and for 10 of those minutes he floated free in space, connected to the ship with a lifeline, Tass news agency said. The feat was broadcast by Moscow television.
During his space stroll, the cosmonaut, Lt. Col. Alexei Leo nov, 30, took pictures with his movie camera and "conducted visual observations of the earth and outer space," Tass said.
The Russian space spectacular came only five days before the United States was sched uled to launch its first two-man space ship. Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young are to blast off from Cape Kennedy next Tuesday.
Big Lead Indicated
The Russians today sent Leonov into orbit with Col. Pavel Belyayev, 39. Their space first was a giant step toward land ing a man on the moon and the fact Leonov was able to leave the Voskhod and maneuver in dependently in the frigid si lence of space indicated a big Soviet technical lead.
Ninety minutes after the ship went into orbit on its scheduled one-day flight, Leonov worked his way out of the cabin and moved about 16 feet away. There he carried out observa tions and experiments, and then reentered the capsule.
The television pictures showed Leonov's helmet slowly emerging from the airlock, then Leonov himself his shoulders and then his waist.
He paused waist-high from the exit hatch for word from Belyayev that it was safe to proceed. Belyayev signaled the go-ahead.
As Leonov moved away, the earth was framed in the back ground. He pulled up his legs and held on for some time to a handrail attached to the side of the ship.
Then Leonov was shown to be floating in a horizontal position, changing to a vertical one and backing away from the ship in a somersault maneuver. He was attached to the capsule by a lifeline.
The cosmonaut drifted eerily in free flight in a scene that was almost dreamlike. He wore a silvery space suit and boots. Viewers could see oxygen tanks strapped to his back.
Belyayev was shown talking from inside the ship with ground stations.
Leonov and the ship were orbiting the earth at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour, the ship's maximum distance from earth was more than 300 miles the highest in the history of manned space flights.
The Tass news agency said Leonov "stepped out of the cabin of Voskhod II at 11:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. EST) and moved up to five meters (16 ft. 5 in.) away from the ship."
Leonov "carried out a series of planned experiments and returned safely to the ship," Tass said. The agency said Leonov was "feeling fine outside the ship and after his return."
Other Stays Inside
The other cosmonaut, Col. Pavel Belyayev, 39, stayed inside.
The feat was accomplished during the ship's second orbit around the earth while it was travelling at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. Leonov was equipped "in a special space-suit with an autonomus life support system," Tass said.
Moscow television flashed a picture of Leonov as he emerged from a hatch and appeared to float ever so slowly away from the capsule. He orbited alongside the spacecraft at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour.
Space experts said the mission was a forerunner to an eventual docking operation with another spaceship. Such a rendezvous in space, creating an orbiting launching pad, would have to precede any flights to the moon or beyond. Both the United States and the Soviet Union have been pointing their space programs toward the rendezvous feat.
There was some speculation that the Russians might be planning to launch a second spaceship today to link up with Voskhod II.
Another Ship Possible
(In Bochum, Germany, a spokesman for the West German Institute for Satellite and Space Research said its radio monitors indicated that a second Russian ship may be in orbit.)
Today's spectacular took the limelight away from Gemini, America's two-man space effort, now only six days away from launch. The United States plans to orbit astronauts Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young from Cape Kennedy next Tuesday.
Leonov's voyage away from the ship was but another in a long list of Soviet "firsts" in space.
The Russians launched the first unmanned satellite in history on Oct. 4, 1957, and followed it up with a series of feats that included the first manned spaceflight in 1961, the first orbital trip by a woman in 1963 and the first multi-manned shot last October.
Voskhod-II was launched at 10 a.m. (2 a.m. today) and Leonov made his venture into outer space about 90 minutes later.
Tass said Leonov's work outside and the return to the ship were "transmitted to the earth by means of the ship's television system and observed by a network of ground stations."
Voskhod-II was making an orbit every 90 minutes on an egg-shaped course that sent it 307 miles away from earth at the farthest point. The closest it came to earth was 108 miles.