Shenzhou-13 Crew Conducts First Extravehicular Activities, Wang Yaping Becomes First Female Chinese Astronaut to Spacewalk

By 1:16 a.m. Monday, Beijing time, spacewalking Shenzhou-13 members Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping had completed their extravehicular activities (EVAs) and returned to the space station core module Tianhe, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said on Monday. Their successful spacewalk lasted about 6.5 hours.

The operations started at 6:51 p.m., when Zhai opened the hatch of Tianhe’s node cabin to begin his first EVA in 13 years. Subsequently, Zhai installed the foot restraint and started the activities with the support of a robotic arm. At 8:28 p.m., astronaut Wang Yaping successfully exited from the node cabin of the Tianhe Core Module, becoming China’s first female astronaut to spacewalk. The pair’s crewmate Ye Guangfu remained inside the core module to aid their operations.

This spacewalk is the first of the Shenzhou-13 mission and the third of its kind during the country’s space station building period. According to the China Manned Space Administration (CMSA), the Shenzhou-13 crew will carry out another one or two spacewalks.

The astronauts first installed foot stoppers and a working platform to the robotic arm, before they worked together to install a suspension device and transfer connectors to the robotic arm. The CMSA said that their spacewalk has further verified the performance of China’s home-developed spacesuit, the ability of the astronauts to work with the robotic arm and the reliability and safety of the supporting equipment.

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Huang Weifen, chief designer of the astronaut system, said: “The mission laid a foundation for the joint operation of small robotic arm and large robotic arm in the follow-up Shenzhou-14 mission. At the same time, we further accumulated experience through this extravehicular activity.”