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8 Nov, 2021 09:33

Chinese astronauts, including first woman, complete space walk outside future space station

Chinese astronauts, including first woman, complete space walk outside future space station

Two Chinese astronauts have completed a space walk which lasted several hours outside a future space station, with 41-year-old Wang Yaping becoming the first woman astronaut from China to perform the move.

Teamed with mission commander Zhai Zhigang, the duo disembarked from the main module of the Tiangong station on a space walk that lasted over six hours. The pair carried out tests alongside the station’s robotic arm and installed equipment for part of the station’s construction.

The Shenzhou-13 astronauts returned to the module at 1:16am on Monday (17:16 GMT), state media outlet CCTV said. A third astronaut, Ye Guangfu, assisted the pair from inside the station.

Footage from inside Tiangong showed the astronauts carrying out their tasks and floating in space.

Tiangong’s core module entered orbit earlier this year and the station is slated to be operational by 2022. The team of astronauts is expected to spend six months at the station.

The three astronauts arrived at the station on October 16. Their scheduled space stint is the longest for Chinese astronauts to date. After the trio return to earth in April 2022, Beijing intends to send two more manned missions to Tiangong and add two more modules.

"This marks the first extravehicular activity of the Shenzhou-13 crew, and it is also the first in China’s space history involving the participation of a woman astronaut,” the CMS said in a statement early on Monday.

The mission is Ye’s first trip to space and second time  for Zhai and Wang, who also holds the title of the first female on the Tiangong space station. The mission commander performed China’s first spacewalk in 2008. 

The Tianhe module of the station will be connected to two others, named Mengtian and Wentian, next year. Three more space walks are planned to install equipment for the station’s enlargement. Once the station is completed, it will weigh about 66 tons.

The first crew, comprised of three astronauts, returned from Tianhe in September after spending 90 days in space.