Two Chinese astronauts made the country’s first spacewalk in 13 years outside the core module of space station Tianhe on July 4, 2021. Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo began the six-hour and 46-minute extravehicular activity (EVA). Liu was first to exit the space station’s Tianhe (“Harmony of the Heavens”) core module, followed by Tang about three hours later.
China’s first-ever spacewalk was performed by Zhai Zhigang, commander of the Shenzhou 7 mission, in 2008. Liu was part of that mission’s crew as well. China’s own space station is a significant step in its ambitious space programme, previously Beijing has landed a rover on Mars and sent probes to the moon.
“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,” China’s space agency said in a statement.
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.
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.
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.