A Record-Breaking Spacewalk is Carried Out by Chinese Astronauts Outside the Tiangong Space Station

Recently, two Chinese astronauts broke the nation’s previous spacewalking record.

Today, May 28, Ye Guangfu and Li Guangsu, two of the three Chinese participants in the Shenzhou 18 mission, worked outside the Tiangong space station for around 8.5 hours.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said that was the longest spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), the country has ever conducted.

China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) officials stated in an update today that Ye and Li “completed the installation of the space station’s space debris protection device and the inspection of extravehicular equipment and facilities.”

Chinese space officials are really concerned about space junk; Tiangong, for example, recently lost some power due to a debris strike on its solar arrays.

Li’s EVA today was her first, and Ye’s, who also left Tiangong during the Shenzhou 13 mission in December 2021, was her second. Li Cong, the third person on the Shenzhou 18 mission, helped in the EVA by keeping an eye on the spacewalkers’ movements and activities from inside Tiangong.

For the six-month Shenzhou 18 mission, which launched to Tiangong in late April, this was the first EVA. Shenzhou 17, China’s last crewed flight, completed two spacewalks outside Tiangong. With four EVAs, Shenzhou 15 broke the national record for a single mission.

Shenzhou 18 might be doing the same. “According to the plan, a large number of scientific experiments and technical tests, as well as astronaut crew extravehicular activities and application payload extravehicular missions, will be carried out during the Shenzhou 18 manned flight mission,” CMSA officials stated in today’s update.

Xinhua reports that Chinese astronauts have now completed 16 spacewalks in total. Zhai Zhigang left his Shenzhou 7 capsule on September 27, 2008, and spent roughly 20 minutes outside it, making it the country’s first EVA.