Beijing, Dec 27 (EFE).- Chinese astronauts Zhai Zhigang and Ye Guangfu completed an extra-vehicular mission and returned to the Tianghe central module of the Tiangong space station, state-owned Xinhua news agency reported Monday.
This is the fourth spacewalk carried out during the construction of the Tiangong station and the second involving the current crew members, who arrived at the station on Oct.15 aboard the Shenzhou-13.
The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said that the crew returned safely inside the station at 00.55 am Beijing time after six hours of extra-vehicular operations that included raising a panoramic camera and testing the object transport system.
Moreover, Zhai and Ye tested the performance of the sealed cockpit of the module and the mechanical arm and evaluated the coordination with the interior of the station and with Earth.
Spacewalks are becoming another part of the work of space missions, and taikonauts – as astronauts are known in Chinese – will carry out more complex extravehicular activities for the construction and stable operation of the Tiangong, CMSA said.
On Nov.7, the current crew of the Chinese space station completed the first spacewalk of their mission, which included Zhai Zhigang, the team’s most experienced person, and Wang Yaping, who became the first Chinese woman to achieve the feat.
The Shenzhou-13 is the fourth ship to visit Tiangong, and the second with crew, after the Shenzhou-12 took three astronauts there who returned to Earth in September after staying there for three months.
China hopes to complete the construction of its first space station by the end of 2022, after the crews of the future Shenzhou-14 and Shenzhou-15 complete the planned work.
The Tiangong will weigh about 70 tons and is expected to operate for about 15 years orbiting about 400 kilometers from the Earth’s surface.
The International Space Station, a US-led initiative to which China is barred from access, could stop operating in 2024, placing the Tiangong in the privileged position of being the only such station. EFE