BEIJING (AP) – The crew of China’s orbiting space station completed the first of several planned spacewalks of their six-month mission, pushing such activities into the realm of routine for the country’s astronauts.
The China Manned Space Agency said during yesterday’s seven-hour extra-vehicular activity, Fei Junlong and Zhang Lu carried out tasks, including installing extension pumps outside the Mengtian laboratory module. The third member of the Shenzhou-15 mission Deng Qingming assisted from inside the station. The three are scheduled to carry out several other spacewalks during their time on board.
China completed the Tiangong station in November with the addition of the third of three modules, centred on the Tianhe living and command module. Tiangong weighs about 66 tonnes – a fraction of the 465-tonne International Space Station. It can accommodate up to six astronauts, though only three will be on board for each mission.
With a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, Tiangong could one day be the only space station still up and running if the ISS retires around the end of the decade as expected.
China in 2003 became the third government to send an astronaut into orbit on its own after the former Soviet Union and the United States. It conducted its first spacewalk in September 2008 and the tempo of such activities increased since the launch of the Tianhe module in 2021.