Wang Yaping, a Chinese astronaut, has become the first woman in Chinese history to walk in space.
Wang, who is 41 years old, is one of three astronauts – or taikonauts, currently stationed at the Tiangong space station. She is a member of the Shenzhou-13 crew, which launched on October 16 from a launch site in the Gobi Desert for a six-month mission in the Tianhe module, the space station’s core.
According to a press release from the China Manned Space Agency, Wang and fellow astronaut Zhai Zhigang, who is 55, left the Tianhe module and ventured out into space for six hours on November 8th to install equipment and test the station’s robotic arm (CMS). Ye Guangfu, 41, the third crew member, assisted the team from inside the space station.
During their six-month stay, Wang, Zhai, and Ye will continue to work on the space station. The team will ‘carry out tasks such as mechanical arm operation, extravehicular activities and module transfer,’ according to China’s space agency, as well as test how a long-term stay in space would work in terms of resource management and life support within the country’s space station.
The construction of Tiangong, which means ‘heavenly palace,’ is currently underway. Tianhe, the core module, will eventually be linked to two other sections, Mengtian and Wentian. According to Reuters, China plans to complete its new space station by the end of 2022, a task that will require at least seven more missions.
Chinese astronauts were barred from launching to the International Space Station (ISS) under the 2011 Wolf Amendment. However, the International Space Station (ISS) may be decommissioned by the 2030s, leaving Tiangong as the only operational space station at that time.
Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming, taikonauts, were the first Chinese astronauts to go into space. After a three-month stay at the Tiangong space station, the Shenzhou-12 crew landed in Mongolia on September 17th. Shenzhou-12’s mission was the longest in Chinese history at the time, but Shenzhou-13’s taikonauts are about to break that record.
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