On early Sunday morning, two Chinese astronauts completed work outside of their country’s Tiangong space station. The event was the second-ever spacewalk in China’s history. As The Guardian points out, it’s also the first time its astronauts have completed a tandem extravehicular activity (EVA).
Shenzhou-12 astronaut Boming Liu left the station at 8:11 PM ET on July 3rd and was later joined by crewmate Hongbo Tang. Meanwhile, Haisheng Nie, the mission’s commander, stayed inside the Tianhe “Harmony of the Heavens” crew module to support them.
The two astronauts went out to do work on the module’s robotic arm while wearing China’s next-generation Feitian EVA suits. The entire time they were about 380 kilometers (236 miles) above the surface of Earth. The components they installed will assist future missions as China looks to complete its new space station sometime in 2022. Liu and Tang went back into Tianhe at approximately 2:57 AM ET, making the entire spacewalk around seven hours.
“The safe return of astronauts Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo to the Tianhe core module marks the complete success of the first spacewalk in our country’s space station construction,” China’s Manned Space Agency said in a statement.
The last time a Chinese astronaut left their craft was back in 2008 when Zhigang Zhai put China in the history books as the third-ever country to complete a spacewalk. In the past year, the country successfuly landed its first-ever rover on Mars and retrieved rock and soil samples from the Moon. The country’s space agency plans a second spacewalk before the Shenzhou-12 crew returns to Earth later this year.