In its space exploration history, China’s astronauts have successfully completed a second spacewalk. At 2:57 p.m. Beijing time on Sunday, Shenzhou-12 crew members returned back to the Tianhe core module of the China’s space station.
The mission outside the cabin lasted about seven hours. In China’s space station, it was also the first extravehicular activity along with being the first since the historic Shenzhou-7 manned mission in 2008. In the 2008 mission, Chinese astronaut Liu Boming helped his teammate Zhai Zhigang perform a nearly 20-minute spacewalk.
To conduct the first extravehicular activities of their current mission, two of the three Chinese astronauts ventured outside. Astronauts or “taikonauts” Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, stationed in the Tianhe, went out of the space station. They had the support of a robotic arm. To command the mission and assist the other two to conduct the tasks, taikonaut Nie Haisheng stayed in the cabin.
At around 8:26 a.m. Beijing time, Liu was out of the core module to install a foot restraint and a workbench on the robotic arm. After that, the robotic arm transferred him to install relevant equipment.
At around 11:02 a.m. Beijing time, second taikonaut Tang started his spacewalk. He crawled to the operation site to assist Liu. Tang made his way using the handrails mounted on the space station. Commander of the mission, Nie Haisheng, remained inside the core module to support the pair’s operation outside during the same time.
Emergency return test procedure
Also, the crew carried out an emergency return test procedure.
Wang Yanlei is Director of China Astronaut Research and Training Center in Beijing. Wang told China Media Group “In case of any emergency during the extravehicular activities, astronauts must return to the airlock cabin quickly, and use the emergency oxygen supply in the cabin to ensure their safety.”
“So we need to do the verification.”
Installation of panoramic cameras
Installing a lifting bracket for one of the extravehicular panoramic cameras is one of the astronauts’ tasks. The bracket was initially installed at a lower position on the robotic arm. This gave it a limited view.
The panoramic camera had been successfully lifted by Liu and Tang at 12:09 p.m. Beijing time.
For the astronauts to properly monitor the situation outside the space station, a wider perspective of the camera is required. As such, Wang said the astronauts need to install a bracket to lift the camera higher.
Robotic arm vs astronaut
Operating the robotic arm, which was conducted by Nie, was no walk in the park.
The robotic arm can perform a wide range of tasks in space. Its movements are controlled by the ground personnel However, the task can be performed more accurately by an astronaut in in the space station.
Emergency stop device
Wang said “Due to limited monitoring approaches from the Earth, it is necessary for the astronaut inside the space station to communicate through voice with the spacewalking astronauts, and make instructions to them.”
He said access to the emergency stop device is available to all astronauts, both inside and outside of the space station.
He added “The astronauts for extravehicular activities can directly press the device once they face a risk of collision, and the robotic arm will stop working.”
5th July 2021 23:00
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