Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming docked with the Tiangong space station in June, beginning a three-month stay in space that represents China’s longest crewed mission to date.
On Sunday morning, Liu and Tang exited the station’s core module – the first of two planned spacewalks during their mission.
A mechanical arm was used to move one of the astronauts around the exterior of the station, while another one, unassisted, climbed around the outside of the cabin.
Their extra-terrestrial outing was broadcast on Chinese television, with footage showing the two astronauts opening the cabin door and exiting the module. A camera mounted on the helmet of one of the astronauts also provided a unique first-person view of the spacewalk.
Hello from space. After Taikonaut Tang Hongbo stepped outside the China space station’s Tianhe core module, he waved at the camera. An exciting moment for people closely following the live broadcast of their first extravehicular activities. pic.twitter.com/OlijytKwwr
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) July 4, 2021
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) July 4, 2021
The operation wasn’t just for show, however. The pair left the station in order to elevate the panoramic camera mounted outside the core module, and to test the capabilities of the craft’s robotic arm.
The mission was scheduled to last six or seven hours.
The Tiangong station’s core module was launched in April. Its deployment comes as Beijing seeks to expand its presence in space.
The Chinese space agency planned a total of 11 launches through the end of 2022, including three more manned missions.
More modules will be added to the station, which is also expected to take on larger crews.
The spacewalk comes a week after China released footage from its Tianwen-1 mission to Mars. The videos, some of which included audio, show the landing of the country’s Zhurong rover and its operations on the Red Planet’s surface.
Header: This screengrab made from video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo and Liu Boming (R) with a spacesuit on June 23, 2021. © CCTV / AFP