Chinese astronauts conduct their first spacewalk outside the new station

BEIJING (AP) – Two astronauts conducted the first spacewalk outside China’s new orbital station on Sunday to install cameras and other equipment using a 15-meter-long robotic arm .

Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo were shown by State TV exiting the airlock as Earth passed under them. The third crew member, Commander Nie Haisheng, remained inside.

Liu and Tang spent nearly seven hours outside the station, the Chinese space agency said.

The astronauts arrived on June 17 for a three-month mission aboard China’s Third Orbital Station, as part of an ambitious space program that landed a robot rover on Mars in May. Their mission comes as the ruling Communist Party celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding.

The station’s first mod, Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, launched on April 29. This was followed by an automated spaceship with food and fuel. Liu, Nie and Tang arrived on June 17 aboard a capsule from Shenzhou.

On Sunday, Liu tied his feet to a platform at the end of a remote control arm that held him in place while he used an electric drill and other tools to set up the equipment.

The Chinese space agency plans a total of 11 launches by the end of next year to add two more modules to the 70-ton station.

Liu is a veteran of the 2008 Shenzhou 7 mission, in which Zhai Zhigang carried out China’s first spacewalk. Nie is on his third trip to space while Liu is on his first. All are military pilots.

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