The Shenzhou XV mission crew, who have been residing at the Tiangong space station for over two months now, have finally carried out their first ever spacewalk. The China Manned Space Agency made the announcement early Friday morning, stating that the mission commander Major General Fei Junlong and Senior Colonel Zhang Lu successfully completed a seven-hour spacewalk that started Thursday afternoon and ended at 12:16 am on Friday. The third crew member, Senior Colonel Deng Qingming, stayed inside the station to provide support.
The spacewalk was a momentous occasion for the Tiangong space station, marking the first such operation since the station’s formal operations began at the end of 2022. The China Manned Space Agency noted that extravehicular installation work has recently started to mount scientific devices on the exterior of Tiangong.
The Shenzhou XV crew used a robotic arm designed and built by the China Academy of Space Technology, a major contractor in the Tiangong program, to mount extended pump sets and foot restraints outside the station. The academy reported that Fei and Zhang made numerous movements around all three major sections of the station during the spacewalk.
Retired researcher and renowned writer on spaceflight, Pang Zhihao, spoke highly of the astronauts’ feat, stating that the operation was never easy. He explained that it was difficult and challenging for the astronauts to move the large-sized foot restraints and install them due to the amount of strength and skill required. Fei and Zhang had to make many movements while wearing their heavy extravehicular suits, and had to “walk” around the entire station, making the operation quite demanding. Nevertheless, Pang was glad to see that the operation was completed smoothly.
The Shenzhou XV crew has now been inside the Tiangong station for 72 days and is scheduled to stay until May, when the Shenzhou XVI crew will take over. During their time at the station, the Shenzhou XV astronauts are tasked with conducting several spacewalks to mount equipment outside the station, installing and testing scientific cabinets, and conducting scientific experiments and technological demonstrations.
The Tiangong space station is one of the largest ever space-based assets, consisting of the Tianhe core module, the Wentian and Mengtian science capsules, the Shenzhou XV crew spacecraft, and the Tianzhou 5 cargo ship. Chinese astronauts have so far carried out nine spacewalks, making this latest one a significant milestone in the country’s space exploration endeavors.
The spacewalk is a testament to the immense capabilities of the Shenzhou XV crew and the Tiangong space station. The successful completion of the operation highlights the hard work and dedication put in by the crew, as well as the technological advancements made by the China Manned Space Agency and its contractors.
In conclusion, the first spacewalk of the Shenzhou XV mission marks a major step forward for China’s space exploration efforts. The successful completion of the operation sets a positive precedent for future spacewalks and space missions, and is a source of inspiration for space enthusiasts and professionals alike. With the ever-growing advancements in technology, it is exciting to think about what the future holds for space exploration, and how China will continue to play a significant role in it.