China’s Shenzhou 15 astronauts are keeping busy on the nation’s Tiangong space station.
Two of the three Shenzhou 15 spaceflyers — Fei Junlong and Zhang Lu — conducted a spacewalk outside Tiangong recently, officials with the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said in an update on Wednesday (opens in new tab) (March 1). Fellow crewmate Deng Qingming supported the excursion from inside the station.
Fei and Zhang “successfully completed all the scheduled tasks and returned safely to the Wentian experimental cabin,” CMSEO officials wrote (in Chinese; translation by Google), without specifying what those tasks were or when exactly the spacewalk took place. Wentian is one of the T-shaped Tiangong‘s three modules; the others are Mengtian and Tianhe.
The extravehicular activity (EVA) was the second for the Shenzhou 15 astronauts, who arrived at Tiangong on Nov. 29, 2022. The other spacewalk occurred on Feb. 9.
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The Shenzhou 15 astronauts have also made significant scientific progress during the first three months of their six-month mission, according to the CMSEO update.
For example, the spaceflyers worked together with ground personnel to inaugurate the “combustion science cabinet” installed in Mengtian, performing its first-ever on-orbit ignition test.
The trial “verified the completeness of the functions of the space station combustion science experiment system and the accuracy of the overall experimental process,” paving the way for future projects, CMSEO officials wrote.
In addition, the two-photon microscope (opens in new tab) that launched to Tiangong aboard the Tianzhou 5 cargo spacecraft on Nov. 11, 2022 has been doing work in orbit. The instrument has taken images of the Shenzhou 15 crewmembers’ skin cells, according to the update.
The microscope “provides a new tool for on-orbit health monitoring of crewmembers,” CMSEO officials wrote.
China launched Tiangong’s Tianhe core module in April 2021, then lofted the Wentian and Mengtian segments in July 2022 and October 2022, respectively. Mengtian’s attachment wrapped up the station’s assembly phase.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and on Facebook (opens in new tab).