The Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov
The Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, en route to Jupiter



Propulsion System

Sakharov Drive

Mission Duration

5 years (2010-2015)



(Novel)Tanya Orlova, Maxim Brailovsky, Zenia Marchenko, Vasili Orlov, Katerina Rudenko, Irina Yakunina (formerly)

(Film) Tanya Kirbuk, Vasili Orlov, Vladimir Rudenko, Maxim Brajlovsky, Irina Yakunina


Heywood R. Floyd, Walter Curnow, Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai (Dr. Chandra)


mission insignia

The Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov was a joint Russian-American mission to Jupiter. The purpose of the mission was to recover the American Discovery One spacecraft and bring it back to Earth, as well as study the Jupiter Monolith, referred to by the crew of Leonov as Zagadka (Russian for 'enigma').

The Leonov, a Soviet-built spacecraft with a rotating segment, was named for the Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first person to walk in space. There is a framed painting by Leonov inside the spacecraft.

Propulsion system Edit

The Leonov was equipped with a "Sakharov Drive". The Sakharov Drive employed a pulsed thermonuclear reaction to heat and expel propellant material. A variety of propellants could be used; the most efficient was hydrogen, but methane, ammonia, and water could be used as well.

Aerobraking Edit

In order to slow into Jovian orbit, the Leonov preformed a technique called aerobraking. This is done by just barely skirting the outer edges of the atmosphere, using the resultant drag force to slow them down into the proper orbit. This was only the second time this was done by a manned spacecraft, the first being the ill-fated Chinese spacecraft Tsien.

To prevent the spacecraft from burning up in Jupiter's thick atmosphere, Leonov deployed an inflatable low-density heat shield, made of an extremely durable, heat resistant material. The shield was discarded shortly after aerobraking.

The aerobraking procedure put Leonov into the Lagrange point between Io and Jupiter, the location of both the monolith and Discovery.

Escape from Lucifer Edit

One night while Dr. Floyd was on night watch, he was surprised to see the spectral form of the presumed dead David Bowman, who proceeded to give Floyd instructions to leave Jupiter within just 15 days (2 in the film). Floyd argued that they hadn't sufficient propellant to make such a hasty departure from Jupiter. Nevertheless, Bowman insisted that they leave within 15 days. When Floyd asked why, Bowman simply said that something was going to happen; "something wonderful".

Because of this, Floyd insisted to the crew that they leave before this mysterious deadline. Naturally, they disagreed, as they had no real reason to leave upon such short notice.

Under mysterious circumstances, quite to the bewilderment of the crew of Leonov, the monolith simply disappeared. Also, shortly after this, a strange black circle appeared near the equator of Jupiter.


Leonov coupled to Discovery during the escape burn.

Walter Curnow, one of the three American crew, suggested linking Leonov to Discovery, using Discovery as a booster rocket, giving Leonov the proper escape velocity. After the burn was complete, Discovery would simply be cast off. This plan would enable Leonov to leave within the 15 days.

And so, with some effort, Leonov was coupled to Discovery.

The crew of Leonov had observed that the strange black spot had become substantially larger. Under high magnification it soon became apparent that the spot was not solid, but it was indeed a conglomeration of innumerable objects, identified to be exactly the same as the Jupiter monolith. Also, they were reproducing at an alarming rate. Pretty soon, the circle of monoliths had nearly eclipsed the whole of Jupiter.

As Leonov was departing from Jupiter, the planet suddenly exploded, filling the sky with bright light. As the light slowly faded, it became apparent what the monoliths were doing. They had been sucking up the gasses in Jupiter's atmosphere, making them more dense, therefore making nuclear fusion possible at the heart of Jupiter, turning the planet into a mini-sun, eventually named Lucifer.

After Discovery was cast off from Leonov, Dave Bowman appeared to Hal, telling him to send one last message to the Earth, and to repeat it as many times as possible. The message was "ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS — EXCEPT EUROPA, ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE". Discovery was destroyed during the formation of Lucifer.

The basic design of the Leonov, including its large rotating section, was later used as the Omega-class destroyer in the science fiction TV series Babylon 5.