Two of China's taikonauts aboard its Tiangong Space Station have carried out the first of the two spacewalks planned for the three-month crewed mission in orbit to get the space station up and running.
As operations on board the Tiangong space station continue to go ahead, taikonauts (the Chinese name for astronauts) Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo went out of the airlock on July 4, assisted from inside the Tianhe module by commander Nie Haisheng. The seven hours of extravehicular activity (EVA) work had the two space travelers working on the exterior portion of the space station.
In a video of Liu leaving the cabin, he said: "Wow, it's too beautiful out here," reports AFP.
Liu and Tang finished installing foot restraints and the extravehicular working platform on the station’s 5-meter-long (50 foot) robotic arm. They finished lifting the panoramic camera outside the Tinahe core and installed other instruments and equipment.
Currently, Tiangong (which means Heavenly Palace) consists of the main Tianhe (River in the Heavens, also a nickname for the Milky Way) core module but when completed it will be about one-fifth of mass of the International Space Station (ISS) and will orbit at a similar altitude of between 340 and 450 kilometers (210 and 280 miles). The ISS is kept at around 420 kilometers (260 miles) in low-Earth orbit.
The enxt couple of years will see the Chinese space station grow a lot with 11 launches planned, including its two lab experiment modules launching next year. The first one will be Wentian (meaning Quest for Heavens), which is expected to launch around May-June 2022, followed about three months later by Mengtian (meaning Dreaming of Heavens). A separate telescope module will also be launched over the next several years.
This is China's first crewed mission in nearly five years. This crew of taikonauts is expected back on Earth in September with the next crew expected to fly there in October, and the following crews launching in late spring and late fall of 2022.