Chinese astronauts complete first spacewalk in front of new Tiangong space station

Chinese astronauts complete first spacewalk in front of new Tiangong space station

HONG KONG – Two astronauts completed the first spacewalk outside China’s new orbital station on Sunday to install cameras and other equipment using a robotic arm, state media reported.

As the Earth passed under them, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo exited the airlock of the Tianhe or “Celestial Harmony” module of the Tiangong space station and spent 7 hours carrying out their tasks, the Chinese space agency said. The third crew member, Commander Nie Haisheng, remained inside to support the couple’s operations, he added.

The mission, which took place days after Beijing celebrated the 100th anniversary of its ruling Communist Party, was televised by state television channel CGTN.

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It was only the second spacewalk ever undertaken by Chinese astronauts. The first was on the Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008, when Liu helped his colleague Zhai Zhigang walk in space for 20 minutes.

Liu and Tang have completed the installation of a robotic arm that will be used to assemble the rest of the station, state media reported. They also installed a lifting bracket for one of the panoramic cameras.

All of the military pilots, Liu, Tang and Nie arrived at the space station on June 17 for the three-month mission – China’s longest crewed mission to date. It was the first time in five years that the country had sent humans into space.

The mission is a source of immense pride for Beijing, long excluded from the International Space Station, a multinational project launched more than 20 years ago.

The project to build its own space station began in April with the successful launch of the Tianhe module. It was the first of 11 missions needed to complete, supply and equip the 70-ton station by the end of next year.

Eric Baculinao and The Associated Press contributed.