Chinese astronauts launch spacewalk

By ZHAO LEI | | Updated: 2022-09-01 19:10
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Shenzhou XIV astronauts Chen Dong (center), Liu Yang (right) and Cai Xuzhe salute after entering the Wentian module, the first lab module of China's space station. XU BU/FOR CHINA DAILY

Chinese astronauts on the Shenzhou XIV mission are carrying out their first spacewalk that started on Thursday afternoon, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

Mission commander Senior Colonel Chen Dong opened an extravehicular activity hatch on the Tiangong space station at 6:26 pm and then floated out of the station. He was followed by the female crew member Senior Colonel Liu Yang, the agency said in a news release.

The other teammate, Senior Colonel Cai Xuzhe, is staying inside the station to support their operations, the release said.

Chen and Liu are tasked with installing new instruments outside Tiangong, adjusting the panoramic camera and other operations. The duo is scheduled to stay outside for around seven hours, according to the agency.

This is the first time that astronauts will use the Wentian space lab's airlock cabin to make preparations for and then carry out a spacewalk.

Crew members of previous flights used the airlock cabin on the Tianhe core module to support spacewalks.

With the new cabin, the one on the Tianhe has become the backup supporting facility for future spacewalks.

Zhang Qiao, head designer of Wentian's overall structure at the China Academy of Space Technology, said the new cabin's inner space is bigger than that on the Tianhe module and its hatch is also wider, and these make it easier for astronauts to ready themselves and carry out spacewalks.

Chen and his teammates have spent 88 days in orbit and have conducted a series of tasks such as arranging cargo, testing equipment and conducting scientific experiments, said the space agency.

The crew arrived at Tiangong on the evening of June 5, several hours after their spacecraft was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern Gobi Desert.

They are scheduled to stay at the station, orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth, for six months to monitor the planned assembly of the colossal outpost.

Shenzhou XIV is the sixth spacecraft to visit Tiangong and the third crewed ship to transport astronauts to the outpost.

Currently, Tiangong consists of the Tianhe core module, the Tianzhou 4 cargo ship, the Shenzhou XIV spacecraft and the Wentian space lab, which was launched in late July.

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