Chinese Cosmonauts Use Wentian Lab’s Airlock Cabin for First Time During 88th-Day in Space!
Chinese Cosmonauts aboard the Shenzhou XIV mission have started carrying out their first spacewalk – also known as ‘extravehicular activity’ – which is scheduled to finish early on Friday morning, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
Mission Commander – Senior Colonel Chen Dong opened an ‘extravehicular’ activity hatch on the Tiangong Space Station at 6:26 pm on Thursday (Beijing Time) and then floated out of the station. He was followed by Chinese Woman Cosmonaut crew member – Senior Colonel Liu Yang – the Agency said in a news release.
This was the first spacewalk conducted by Chen and Liu – both of whom are on their second space mission.
The other team member－Senior Colonel Cai Xuzhe－stayed inside the Station to support Team Operations – the release said.
Chen and Liu were tasked with using a robotic arm to install new instruments outside Tiangong – adjusting the panoramic camera (and other operations). The two Chinese Cosmonauts were scheduled to stay outside for around seven hours – according to the Agency.
It was the first time Chinese Cosmonauts have used the Wentian Space Lab’s ‘Airlock Cabin’ to make preparations for a successful spacewalk!
Crew members of previous flights used the ‘Airlock Cabin’ on the Tianhe Core Module to support spacewalks.
With this ‘new’ Airlock Cabin – the Tianhe module has become the backup support facility for future spacewalks.
Zhang Qiao, Head designer of Wentian’s overall structure at the China Academy of Space Technology, said the new ‘Airlock Cabin’s’ inner space is bigger than that of the Tianhe module, and its hatch is wider – this makes it easier for Chinese Cosmonaut preparation when carrying out spacewalks.
This spacewalk marks the first time that a new type of tether line and a new external lighting system has been successfully used on the Chinese Space Station.
Pang Zhihao, a renowned observer of China’s manned spaceflights, said that Chinese Cosmonauts would verify whether the new ‘Airlock Cabin’ works well in support of spacewalks.
“It must be more comfortable and convenient for Chinese Cosmonauts to use the new cabin for their spacewalk because the section was specifically designed to support extravehicular activities,” he said.
“As soon as the Chinese Cosmonauts opened the hatch, they must have seen the beautiful scenes of the mother planet, as the hatch is always directed toward the Earth,” Pang said.
Pang, who was a Senior Researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology, said the spacewalk was also intended to demonstrate the capabilities of the Robotic Arm on the Wentian Lab.
Chen and his teammates had spent 88 days in orbit as of Thursday and have conducted a series of tasks such as arranging cargo, testing equipment and conducting scientific experiments, the Space Agency said.
The crew arrived at Tiangong on the evening of June 5th, 2022, several hours after their spacecraft was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the North-western Gobi Desert.
They are scheduled to stay at the Station, orbiting 400 kilometres above Earth, for six months to monitor the planned assembly of the Colossal Outpost.
Shenzhou XIV is the sixth spacecraft to visit Tiangong and the third crewed ship to transport Chinese Cosmonauts to the station.
Currently, Tiangong consists of the Tianhe Core Module, the Tianzhou 4 Cargo Ship, the Shenzhou XIV spacecraft and the Wentian Space Lab – which was launched in late July, 2022.
Mission planners said Tiangong’s second Lab component – Mengtian – will be lifted by a Long March 5B Carrier Rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in Hainan province during October, 2022.
After Mengtian is connected with Tiangong, the Station will be a T-shaped structure. The entire Station is expected to work in orbit for 15 years.
2022-09-02 China Daily Editor：Li Yan