BEIJING, Feb. 10 (AP) — Crews of China’s orbiting space station have completed the first of several planned spacewalks on their six-month mission, pushing such activity to the forefront of the country’s astronauts. areas of daily activities.
During the seven-hour EVA on Friday, Fei Junlong and Zhang Lu carried out several tasks, including installing an extension pump outside the Mengtian laboratory, the China Manned Space Administration said. Deng Qingming, the third member of the Shenzhou 15 mission, assisted from the station. The trio plans to perform several other spacewalks during their time on board.
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China completed the Tiangong station in November, adding a third of three modules, centered on the Tianhe living and command module.
China built its own after being excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to U.S. opposition to its space program’s close ties to the People’s Liberation Army, the military arm of the ruling Communist Party.
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International security concerns surrounding China were underscored last week when the U.S. military shot down a Chinese military spy balloon it said was drifting over the continental United States. China insists it was a civilian weather balloon that went off course.
Tiangong weighs about 66 tons — a fraction of the 465-ton International Space Station. It can accommodate up to six astronauts, but only three will be carried on each mission.
Tiangong has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, and if the International Space Station is decommissioned by the end of the century as expected, it could one day become the only space station still in operation.
In 2003, China became the third government, after the former Soviet Union and the United States, to launch its own astronauts into orbit. It performed its first spacewalk in September 2008, and the pace of such activities has picked up since the launch of the Tianhe capsule in 2021.
The country has also had success with unmanned missions: its Yutu-2 probe explored the little-known far side of the moon for the first time. Its Chang’e-5 probe also returned moon rocks to Earth in December 2020 for the first time since the 1970s, while another Chinese probe is looking for evidence of life on Mars.
An eventual crewed mission to the moon is also under consideration, but no timetable has been provided. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)