VIDEO: Astronaut becomes China's first woman to walk in space
China saw its first woman to ever walk in space when she worked on the Chinese space station Tianhe on Nov. 7.
China Manned Space Engineering Network posted video to Weibo showing Wang Yaping leaving and re-entering the module, along with fellow astronaut Zhai Zhigang.
China sent the astronauts to the Tianhe space station on Oct. 16 as part of the Shenzhou-13 mission to build the space station, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.
The country launched its astronauts in space for a six-month program. It will be China’s longest crewed space mission and set a record for the most time spent in space by Chinese astronauts.
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The Shenzhou-13 spaceship was launched into space on a Long March-2F rocket last month from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert in northwestern China.
The mission is expected to continue the work of the initial crew, who conducted two spacewalks, deployed a 33-foot mechanical arm.
The crew’s scheduled activities include up to three spacewalks to install equipment in preparation for expanding the station, verifying living conditions in the module and conducting experiments in space medicine and other areas.
China’s military, which runs the space program, has released few details but says it will send multiple crews to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional. Shenzhou-13 will be the fifth mission, including trips without crews to deliver supplies.
When completed with the addition of two more modules — named Mengtian and Wentian — the station will weigh about 66 tons, a fraction of the size of the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and will weigh around 450 tons when completed.
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China was excluded from the International Space Station largely due to U.S. objections over the Chinese program’s secretive nature and close military ties. It made plans to build its own space stations in the early 1990s and had two experimental modules before starting on the permanent station.
U.S. law requires congressional approval for contact between the American and Chinese space programs, but China is cooperating with space experts from countries including France, Sweden, Russia and Italy.
China has launched seven crewed missions with a total of 14 astronauts aboard since 2003, when it became only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to put a person in space on its own. Two Chinese astronauts have flown twice.
Along with its crewed missions, China has expanded its work on lunar and Mars exploration, including placing a rover on the little-explored far side of the Moon and returning lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.
China this year also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, whose accompanying Zhurong rover has been exploring for evidence of life on the red planet.
Other programs call for collecting soil from an asteroid and bring back additional lunar samples. China has also expressed an aspiration to land people on the moon and possibly build a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects. A highly secretive space plane is also reportedly under development.