Chinese astronauts conduct spacewalk
Two Chinese astronauts made the country’s first spacewalk in 13 years outside the core module of space station Tianhe on Sunday, elevating a camera and testing a 15-metre-long robotic arm.
Chinese astronauts Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo floated out of the space station core module Tianhe on Sunday morning to carry out extravehicular activities (EVAs), the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) was quoted as saying by state media.
They spent seven hours outside the under-construction space station before returning safely.
A Chinese astronaut on Shenzhou-7 had carried out a spacewalk in 2008, which lasted for 20 minutes.
China’s station is a significant step in its ambitious space programme; Beijing has landed a rover on Mars and sent probes to the moon.
On June 17, the three astronauts, Liu, Tang and Nie Haisheng, who stayed inside the Tianhe during Sunday’s spacewalk, blasted off on the Shenzhou-12 spaceship to become the first crew of the station.
They will remain in Tianhe for three months in China’s longest crewed mission to date.
Liu is a veteran of the Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008, and three are People’s Liberation Army Air Force pilots.
“The safe return of astronauts Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo to the Tianhe core module marks the complete success of the first spacewalk in our country’s space station construction,” the CMSA said.
Their tasks included elevating a panoramic camera outside the Tianhe core module and testing the station’s robotic arm, which will be used to transfer future modules around the station, the space agency said, adding that the astronauts installed foot stops on the robotic arm and, with its support, carried out other assembly work, the space agency added.
In a video clip released by Chinese state media of Liu leaving the cabin, he exclaimed: “Wow, it’s too beautiful out here.”
Donning new-generation homemade EMU (extravehicular mobility unit) spacesuits Feitian, meaning flying to space, the two astronauts completed installing the foot restraints and extravehicular working platform on the mechanical arm, the CMSA said.
The entire operation was tracked and guided by the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, state-run China Daily newspaper reported. “Their operation made China the third nation in the world, following the former Soviet Union and the United States, capable of independently conducting a spacewalk,” the China Daily report said.
The first person to go on a spacewalk was Alexei Leonov from the Soviet Union, who stayed more than 12 minutes outside the Voskhod 2 spacecraft on March 18, 1965. A total of 232 astronauts, mostly American and Russian, have made spacewalks.
Shenzhou XII, China’s seventh manned space mission, is part of the Tiangong station programme, which aims to complete a three-component station in a low-Earth orbit about 390km above the ground before the end of 2022.