Two Chinese taikonauts make the first 7-hour spacewalk

The Taikonauts use the airlock cabin in the Wentian laboratory for the first time on the 88th day of their stay in space

According to the China Manned Space Agency, Chinese taikonauts from the Shenzhou XIV mission completed their first spacewalk, also known as an extravehicular activity, which ended in the early morning hours of September 2. Mission Commander Senior Colonel Chen Dong opened an extra vehicle activity hatch on the Tiangong space station the day before at 18:26 Beijing time, then floated out of the station. He was followed by senior colonel Liu Yang, a member of the female crew, the agency said in a press release.

It was the first ever spacewalk by Chen Dong and Liu Yang, who are both on their second spacewalk. The other team member, Senior Colonel Cai Xuzhe, remained inside the station to support their operations, the statement also said.

Chen Dong and Liu Yang’s mission was to use a robotic arm to install new instruments outside the Tiangong, adjust the panoramic camera and other operations. They had to stay outside for about seven hours.

This was the first time taikonauts had used the Wentian Space Laboratory airlock cabin to prepare for and then perform a spacewalk, with crew members from previous flights having used the Tianhe Core Module airlock cabin to conduct spacewalks. With the new cabin, Tianhe’s has become the backup support facility for future spacewalks.

For his part, Zhang Qiao, chief designer of Wentian’s overall structure at the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, said the interior space of the new cabin is larger than that of the Tianhe module, and its hatch is wider, making it easier for taikonauts. to prepare and carry out their spacewalks.

Friday’s spacewalk also marked the first time a new type of tether and external lighting system has been used on China’s space station.

According to Pang Zhihao, a renowned observer of China’s manned spaceflight, the taikonauts also checked whether the new airlock cabin works well to support spacewalks.

“For the taikonauts, it should be more comfortable and convenient to use the new cabin for their spacewalk, as the section is specially designed to support extravehicular activities,” he explained, adding that “as soon as the taikonauts opened the hatch, they must have seen the beautiful scenes on our mother planet because the hatch still points to Earth”.

Pang Zhihao, who was also a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, also noted that the spacewalk was also intended to demonstrate the capabilities of Wentian Lab’s robotic arm.

According to the Chinese Space Agency, Chen Dong and his teammates had already spent 88 days in orbit per September 1, where they performed a number of tasks such as organizing cargo, testing equipment and conducting scientific experiments.

The crew arrived aboard Tiangong on the evening of June 5, several hours after launching their spacecraft from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s northwestern Gobi Desert. They must remain on the station, orbiting 400 kilometers above Earth, for six months to oversee the planned assembly of the colossal future outpost.

Shenzhou XIV is the sixth spacecraft to visit Tiangong and the third manned vehicle to carry astronauts to the station. Currently, Tiangong consists of the Tianhe core module, the Tianzhou 4 cargo ship, the Shenzhou XIV spacecraft and the Wentian space laboratory, which was launched in late July.

According to mission planners, Mengtian, the second component of the Tiangong laboratory, will be carried by a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China’s Hainan province in October. After Mengtian is connected to Tiangong, the station will be a T-shaped structure. The entire station is expected to operate in orbit for 15 years.

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