Two Shenzhou 12 astronauts have completed the mission's first spacewalk, which is also considered China's second spacewalk in the history of their space program.
Astronauts Tang Hongbo and Liu Boming participated in the mission's first spacewalk. Liu was the first to go on the spacewalk and left the Tianhe core module on July 4, 8:11 a.m. Beijing time. Tang followed suit three hours later.
"After about 7 hours of exterior activities, the Shenzhou 12 crewmates working closely together successfully completed all the scheduled tasks during the spacewalk," according to an announcement from China's Manned Space Agency quoted in a report by Space.
Shenzhou 12 First Spacewalk: What It's For
Shenzhou 12's first spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), lasted for almost seven hours. The main goal of the spacewalk was to outfit China's space station with the necessary equipment needed in succeeding activities.
According to the same report by Space, Liu began the spacewalk by attaching a foot restraint and platform to the end of a robotic arm he also mounted himself. Nie Haisheng, the mission commander who remained inside Tianhe, tested for the arm's controls.
When Tang joined Liu three hours later, the pair extended a panoramic camera and installed other EVA equipment.
The second spacewalk is scheduled to take place sometime later within the Shenzhou 12's three-month duration.
Shenzhou 12's Feitian Spacesuits
Tang and Liu were both sporting upgraded Chinese Feitian Spacesuits during the EVA.
The Feitian suits feature a portable life support system that serves as the suit's rear-entry hatch and camera-equipped helmets.
According to Space, the design is similar to the Russian Orlan spacesuit that fellow Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang wore during the first-ever spacewalk in China's history in 2008.
Shenzhou 12 Mission Background
Shenzhou 12 is the third of 11 planned space missions that aim to complete China's very own space station. When completed, the T-shaped space station will be called Tiangong or "Heavenly Palace."
The mission was successfully launched last June 17, 9:22 a.m. Beijing time. A Long March-2F rocket was carrying the three astronauts who are part of the mission launched from a site located in the Gobi Desert.
Shenzhou 12 was preceded by Shenzhou 11, a crewed spaceflight launched in 2016. The Shenzhou 11 mission lasted for a month. The next Shenzhou mission, Shenzhou 13, is on standby in case of any emergency.
Tang, one of the two involved in the mission's first spacewalk, counts the Shenzhou 12 as his maiden space mission.
The three astronauts have adjusted to life in outer Space since reaching the Tianhe core module six hours after their rocket blasted off from the Gobi Desert. The astronauts have more than 100 dishes available to choose from during meal times, can call their loved ones back on Earth, and have even received one from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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Written by Isabella James.