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Chinese astronauts complete first space walk outside new Tiangong space station

The mission, which came days after Beijing celebrated the 100th anniversary of its ruling Communist Party, was televised by state broadcaster CGTN.
Image: CHINA-SPACE-science
Astronauts Nie Haisheng (R), Liu Boming (C) and Tang Hongbo before shortly before they set off on their mission to the Tiangong space station.GREG BAKER / AFP - Getty Images

HONG KONG — Two astronauts completed the first spacewalk outside China’s new orbital station on Sunday to set up cameras and other equipment using a robotic arm, state media reported.

As Earth rolled past below them, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo climbed out of the airlock of the Tianhe or “Heavenly Harmony” module of the Tiangong space station and spent 7 hours performing their tasks, the Chinese space agency said. The third crew member, Commander Nie Haisheng, stayed inside to support the pair’s operations, it added.

The mission, which came days after Beijing celebrated the 100th anniversary of its ruling Communist Party, was televised by state broadcaster CGTN.

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It was only the second spacewalk that Chinese astronauts have ever undertaken. The first was on the Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008, when Liu helped his colleague Zhai Zhigang walk in space for 20 minutes.

Liu and Tang completed the installation of a robotic arm that will be used to assemble the rest of the station, state media reported. They also installed a lifting bracket for one of the panoramic cameras.

All military pilots, Liu, Tang and Nie arrived at space station on June 17 for the three month mission — China’s longest crewed mission to date. It was the first time in five years that the country had sent humans into space.

The mission is a matter of immense pride for Beijing, who has long been excluded from the International Space Station, a multinational project launched more than 20 years ago.

The project to build its own space station began in April when it successfully launched the Tianhe module. It was the first of 11 missions necessary to complete, supply and crew the 70-ton station by the end of next year.

Eric Baculinao and The Associated Press contributed.