Chinese Astronauts Set New Spacewalk Record on Tiangong Space Station

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By Lydia Amazouz Published on May 29, 2024 11:35
Chinese Astronauts Set New Spacewalk Record On Tiangong Space Station

In a significant milestone, Chinese astronauts Ye Guangfu and Li Guangsu performed a record-breaking spacewalk outside the Tiangong space station.

This extravehicular activity (EVA) lasted an impressive 8.5 hours, marking the longest duration for any Chinese spacewalk to date. The spacewalk took place on May 28, 2024, as part of the Shenzhou 18 mission, showcasing China's advancing capabilities in space exploration.

Details of the Spacewalk

Ye Guangfu and Li Guangsu were tasked with installing a space debris protection device and conducting thorough inspections of the extravehicular equipment and facilities.

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These tasks are critical to the continued operation and safety of the Tiangong space station, especially given recent concerns about space debris. The station recently suffered a partial power loss after a debris strike on its solar arrays, highlighting the importance of these protective measures.

This EVA was particularly notable as it was the first for Li Guangsu and the second for Ye Guangfu, who previously conducted a spacewalk during the Shenzhou 13 mission in December 2021. The third crew member of the Shenzhou 18 mission, Li Cong, provided essential support from inside the station, monitoring the activities and ensuring the safety of his fellow astronauts. The smooth execution of this spacewalk demonstrates the crew's preparation and the robustness of China's space program.

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Shenzhou 18 Mission Overview

The Shenzhou 18 mission, which launched in late April 2024, is slated to last six months. During this period, the crew will conduct a variety of scientific experiments and technical tests, as well as additional extravehicular activities. This mission follows the Shenzhou 17 mission, which performed two spacewalks, and the Shenzhou 15 mission, which set a previous record with four EVAs. The Shenzhou 18 mission is designed to further expand China's capabilities in long-duration spaceflight and extravehicular operations.

China has been steadily building its experience and capabilities in space. Since its first EVA in 2008, when astronaut Zhai Zhigang ventured outside the Shenzhou 7 capsule for about 20 minutes, Chinese astronauts have completed a total of 16 spacewalks. These spacewalks are crucial for the assembly and maintenance of the Tiangong space station, as well as for the installation of scientific instruments and other equipment necessary for the station's operations.

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Addressing Space Debris and Enhancing Mission Capabilities

The installation of the space debris protection device during this record-breaking EVA underscores the growing threat posed by space junk. As the Tiangong space station continues to expand and host more missions, protecting its integrity becomes increasingly important. Space debris not only poses a risk to the station's infrastructure but also to the safety of its crew. The Shenzhou 18 crew's efforts in installing these protective measures are a proactive step towards mitigating these risks.

The Shenzhou 18 mission is expected to be highly active, with multiple EVAs planned. According to officials from the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), the crew will carry out a large number of scientific experiments, technical tests, and other extravehicular missions.

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These activities are essential for advancing China's ambitions in space exploration and for maintaining the operational readiness of the Tiangong space station. The insights gained from these experiments and tests will contribute significantly to the development of new technologies and procedures for future missions.

With continued advancements and successful missions, China is poised to play a major role in the future of space exploration. The achievements of the Shenzhou 18 crew demonstrate the country's growing expertise and commitment to pushing the boundaries of human spaceflight.

The ongoing development and deployment of protective measures against space debris highlight the proactive steps being taken to ensure the longevity of the Tiangong space station. As China continues to expand its presence in space, the lessons learned from the Shenzhou 18 mission will be invaluable for the success of future endeavors.

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An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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