According to media reports, two Chinese astronauts have worked outside of the country’s space station for the first time to install tools. This is China’s second spacewalk in the country’s space program’s history.
Tang Hongbo was the first to leave the Tianhe (“Harmony of the Heavens”) core module of the space station, followed by Liu Boming about three hours later.
They worked for six hours and 46 minutes extravehicular activity (EVA) to install tools needed to support future space station activities, according to Space.com.
Boming attached a foot restraint and platform to the station’s 10-metre-long robotic arm before mounting it himself. The arm’s controls were then tested by Shenzhou 12 commander Nie Haisheng, who moved Boming from inside the Tianhe module.
Hongbo, who was tethered to the space station’s handrails, later joined Liu in extending a panoramic camera. According to the report, they then continued to collaborate to instal other EVA equipment using the robotic arm.
“After about seven hours of exterior activities, the Shenzhou 12 crewmates working closely together successfully completed all the scheduled tasks during the spacewalk,” China’s Manned Space Agency was quoted as saying.
The Shenzhou 12 mission, which launched on June 16 with Haisheng, Boming, and Hongbo, is expected to last three months. Aside from testing procedures, the EVAs are preparing the station for expansion with the addition of two laboratory modules scheduled to launch in 2022.
Zhai Zhigang, commander of the Shenzhou 7 mission, performed China’s first-ever spacewalk in 2008. According to the report, Boming was also a member of the mission’s crew.
When not on a spacewalk, the Shenzhou 12 crewmates have been configuring and testing the Tianhe core module’s systems, conducting science experiments, and taking part in video downlinks, including live conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The T-shaped Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) space station, when completed, will be China’s first multi-module space station. According to the report, China plans to invite international partners to visit and work aboard the orbiting outpost in addition to hosting Chinese crews and research.