BEIJING (AFP) – Two astronauts made their first spacewalk outside China’s new orbital station on Sunday to work on a 15-meter-long robotic arm.
On state television, Liu Beoming and Tang Hongbo came out of the airlock as the ground unrolled beneath them. The third crew member, Commander Nie Haisheng, remained inside.
The astronauts arrived on June 17 for a three-month mission aboard China’s Third Orbital Station, as part of an ambitious space program that saw a robotic rover land on Mars in May. Their mission comes as the ruling Communist Party celebrates its centenary.
The station’s first unit, Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, launched on April 29. This was followed by a robotic spaceship equipped with food and fuel. Liu Weni and Tang arrived aboard the Shenzhou capsule on June 17.
According to state media, Liu and Tang completed the installation of a robotic arm on Sunday that will be used to assemble the rest of the station. State TV said their spacesuits were designed to be able to operate in a vacuum of space for up to six hours if needed.
The space agency plans a total of 11 launches until the end of next year to add two more units to the 70-ton station.
Liu is a veteran of the 2008 Shenzhou 7 mission, where Zhai Zhigang made the first space flight to China. Does not make his third trip to space, while Leo makes his first. They are all military pilots.
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