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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 chores on 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 Thursday.

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.”

Today’s spacewalk went so smoothly that the duo finished up about a half-hour earlier than planned. They installed a handrail on the space station’s Russian segment, retrieved science experiments, removed and safely jettisoned hardware for a plasma wave experiment, and even did some window cleaning on the Russian-built Poisk module.

Their crewmates — NASA’s Nick Hague and Anne McClain, plus Canada’s David Saint-Jacques — monitored the spacewalkers’ progress from inside the station.

Kononenko, McClain and Saint-Jacques are due to return to Earth on June 24 after spending six and a half months in orbit. Ovchinin will take over the commander’s role from Kononenko at that time.

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