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Spacewalkers pay tribute to Russian pioneer

Russian spacewalkers
Russian spacewalkers Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin work outside the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment. (NASA TV)

Two Russian cosmonauts took care of a host of scientific and maintenance choreson the exterior of the International Space Station, including cleaning windows from the outside, during a spacewalk that lasted just a minute over six hours.

They also wished the world’s first spacewalker, Alexei Leonov, a happy birthday. Leonov, a pioneer of the Soviet space program who made history with his 1965 orbital outing and took part in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project a decade later, turns 85 on May 30.

In his honor, cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin wore orange placards praising Leonov on their spacesuits during today’s extravehicular tasks. They also showed off a photo of Leonov that they carried outside with them.

“Mr. Leonov, please accept our heartfelt birthday wishes,” one of the spacewalkers said. “You’re with us here and now in outer space, and for the entire duration of this spacewalk you will be here with us.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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