Two Chinese astronauts from Tiangong station take first spacewalk

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Two Chinese astronauts made a tandem spacewalk on Sunday, the first for China, to work on China’s new space station under construction, Tiangong.

First tandem spacewalk for Chinese astronauts. On Sunday, July 4, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo carried out a spacewalk to work on China’s new space station under construction, Tiangong.

Three Chinese astronauts took off June 17th from the Gobi Desert (northwest China) and their spacecraft then docked at Tianhe, the only one of the three space station modules already in orbit, for a three-month mission. It is the longest manned space mission ever carried out by China.

The three men are tasked with continuing to build the station and, on Sunday morning, two of them went out into space together to work there, the Chinese Space Agency for Human Spaceflight said.

The first, Liu Boming, was transported to the place where they are to work by a mechanical arm, while the other, Tang Hongbo, simply exited through the airlock. Outside, they notably tested the mechanical arm which will be used to transfer the future modules of the station.

This is the first spacewalk for Chinese astronauts since that of Zhai Zhigang in 2008, which made China the third country to launch an astronaut into space after the Soviet Union and the United States. United.

Over 6,000 hours of training

In a video released by the space agency, Liu Boming can be seen exiting the cabin exclaiming: “It’s really too beautiful here!” Previously, Chinese television had shown them donning their Chinese-made spacesuits weighing (on Earth) a trifle of 130 kg.

This is the first of two spacewalks planned for the stay of the three astronauts aboard the station.

During their preparation on Earth, veteran Nie Haisheng, 56, who had already made two trips to space and commanded the mission, Liu Boming, 54, who had previously participated in Shenzhou-7 (2008), and Tang Hongbo, 45, whose first time in space, has undergone more than 6,000 hours of training.

The success of the mission, named Shenzhou-12, is a matter of prestige for Beijing. China plans a total of 11 launches in 2021 and 2022 to complete the construction of the station.

A very popular mission on Chinese social networks

Chinese television also broadcast daily life footage on Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace” in Chinese), also called CSS in English, for “Chinese Space Station” on Sunday. Astronauts can be seen eating with chopsticks in their zero gravity cockpit. A little later, one of them achieves a hand balance and a somersault.

A week after their arrival in space, they had a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping who, after congratulating them on their contribution to opening “new horizons for humanity in the peaceful use of the space “, asked them how they found life on board.

Tang Hongbo, the “new kid” of the mission, replied that he had adapted quickly to life in zero gravity. “The food, daily life, working conditions … Everything is going well. We were also able to make video calls with our families. It is good to live in our little house in space,” he said. .

The mission is also very popular on Chinese social networks. A hashtag evoking the spacewalk thus attracted 200 million views on the Weibo platform.

China’s ambition to build a space station was fueled in part by the United States’ refusal to accept Chinese into the International Space Station (ISS) program, a collaboration between the United States, Russia, the Canada, Europe and Japan.

The Chinese space station has an expected lifespan of at least ten years and China has said it is open to international collaboration on the station.

With AFP

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