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First spacewalk for two Chinese astronauts

Three Chinese astronauts took off on June 17 from the Gobi Desert (northwest China) and their spacecraft then docked at Tianhe, the only one of the three space station modules already in orbit, for a three-month mission. .

It is the longest manned space mission ever carried out by China.

They are tasked with continuing to build the station and, on Sunday morning, the two of them walked out into space together to work there, the Chinese Space Agency for Human Spaceflight said.

The first, Liu Boming, was transported to the place where they are to work by a mechanical arm, while the other, Tang Hongbo, simply exited through the safe passage.

They are expected to spend six to seven hours outdoors, including erecting a panoramic camera outside the Tianhe module and testing the mechanical arm that will be used to transfer future modules from the station.

The three Chinese astronauts are surrounded by admirers.

The three astronauts on the mission are scheduled to spend three months in space.

Photo : Reuters / CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS

A first since 2008

This is the first spacewalk for Chinese astronauts since Zhai Zhigang’s in 2008, which made China the third country to launch an astronaut into space after the Soviet Union and the United States. .

In a video released by the space agency, Liu Bomin, exiting the cabin, can be seen exclaiming: Wow, it’s really too beautiful here.

Previously, Chinese television had shown them donning their costume for the outing – a Chinese-made jumpsuit and weighing a trifle of 130 kg.

This is the first of two spacewalks planned for their stay aboard the resort.

To prepare for this mission, veteran Nie Haisheng, 56, who had already made two trips to space and commanded the mission, Liu Boming, 54, who had previously participated in Shenzhou-7 (2008) and Tang Hongbo , 45, whose first time in space, has undergone more than 6,000 hours of training.

The success of the mission, named Shenzhou-12, is a matter of prestige for Beijing. China plans a total of 11 launches in 2021 and 2022 to complete the construction of the station.

Three will be manned flights, bringing the next two modules to the station, while the others will supply it with the equipment and supplies necessary for the life of the astronauts on site.

Life in space

On Sunday, the television also broadcast images of daily life on Tiangong, known in English as CSS, for Chinese space station.

They can be seen eating with chopsticks in their zero gravity cabin. A little later, one of them achieves a balance on the hands and a somersault.

A week after their arrival in space, they had a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping who, after congratulating them on their contribution to the opening new horizons for humanity in the peaceful use of space, had asked them how they found life on board.

Tang Hongbo, le new kid mission, replied that he had adapted quickly to life in zero gravity. Food, daily life, working conditions … Everything is going well. We were also able to make video calls with our families. It’s good to live in our little house in space, he had declared.

The mission is also very present on Chinese social networks, with 200 million views on the Chinese platform Weibo.

China’s ambition to build a space station has been fueled in part by the refusal of the United States to accept Chinese into the International Space Station (ISS) program, a collaboration between the United States, Russia, the Canada, Europe and Japan.

The life of theISS Theoretically goes until 2024, but NASA estimates that it could possibly be extended beyond 2028.

The Tiangong station is scheduled for a lifespan of at least ten years, so until 2031, and China has said it is open to international collaboration on the station.

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