Two astronauts conducted their first spacewalk outside China’s new space station on Sunday to work on the installation of a 15-meter-long robotic arm.
State television showed pictures of Liu Beoming and Tang Hongbo emerging from the hatch and the ground in the background. The third member, Commander Nie Haisheng, remained inside.
The astronauts arrived on June 17 for a three-month mission aboard China’s third orbital station, part of an ambitious space program that brought a drone to Mars in May. Its mission coincides with the celebration of the centenary of the Communist Party that rules the country.
The station’s first unit, Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, was launched on April 29. It was followed by an unmanned ship with food and fuel. Liu Weni and Tang arrived on June 17 aboard the Shenzhou capsule.
Liu and Tang were working on Sunday to complete the installation of a robotic arm that could be used to assemble the rest of the station, according to state media. Their suits are designed so that they can work up to six hours in space if needed, according to state television.
The space agency is planning 11 launches through the end of next year to add two new units to the 70-tonne station.
Liu is a veteran of the 2008 Shenzhou 7 mission, where Zhai Zhigang performed China’s first spacewalk. Ne makes his third trip into space, while Leo makes his first. All three are military pilots.