Oleg Kononenko and Aleksey Ovchinin ventured into vacuum on EVA 217 to maintain the Russian components of the International Space Station, with a touch of history lingering on their minds – Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov, who performed the first ever spacewalk in 1965, turns 85 years old tomorrow.
Today’s spacewalk featured a special birthday wish before getting underway. The pair of cosmonauts emerged from the airlock sporting golden placards on the backs of their Orlan spacesuits, reading “Leonov No 1” and “Happy Birthday Alexei Arkhipovich”, and also carried with them a classic photo of Leonov smiling in his spacesuit, lined around each edge in golden kapton tape. Depite some trouble with their cameras online, they both thanked Leonov for inspiring them and wished the elder pilot good health, which was broadcast to Leonov’s family at the opening of a new museum exhibit.
The main tasks of the walk were to collect completed experiments that were strapped to the station exterior and bring them back inside the station, including a simple towel that had been tied near the Pirs airlock exterior a few years ago. On the other hand, two ionospheric radio experiment modules were simply chucked backward off the station, sure to burn up in on reentry within several months.
The cosmonauts also installed a crawl ladder to ease external movement between two modules, and took additional samples of exterior residue from various points. The work was conducted efficiently, at least 40 minutes ahead of schedule.