Chinese astronauts install space-junk shielding on Tiangong space station (video)

Two Chinese astronauts continued installing space debris protection outside the nation’s Tiangong space station this week.

Ye Guangfu and Li Cong, two members of the three-person Shenzhou 18 mission, spent about 6.5 hours working outside Tiangong on Wednesday (July 3). Li Guangsu assisted the expedition from inside Tiangong, operating the station’s robotic arm.

The main task was installing space debris protection outside the orbiting laboratory. After this, Li Cong mounted the robotic arm and conducted an extravehicular inspection of the space station’s facilities through his helmet camera.

A Shenzhou 18 astronaut conducts a spacewalk outside China’s Tiangong space station on July 3, 2024. (Image credit: CCTV)

The pair returned to Tiangong via the extravehicular activity (EVA) hatch of the Wentian science module.

“The main purpose of the spacewalk this time is to install protection devices for extravehicular equipment, mainly cables and pipelines, so as to improve the space station’s ability to operate safely and steadily over the long term,” Liu Ming, an engineer with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, told state broadcaster CCTV.

The previous Shenzhou 18 spacewalk in late May saw Ye and Li Guangsu install space debris protection on the outside of the Mengtian experiment module. That EVA set a national record of about 8.5 hours working outside Tiangong.

Related: Spacewalks: How they work and major milestones

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“The Chinese space station is very beautiful. Whenever the robotic arm moves to the highest point, I can’t help taking more glances at the space station despite the glaring sunlight. I really feel the greatness of the project from my heart, and I applaud all the space professionals and our motherland,” Li Cong said outside Tiangong.

China’s human spaceflight agency stated on Thursday (July 4) — the third anniversary of the first-ever Tiangong EVA, conducted by the Shenzhou 12 crew — that 16 spacewalks have now taken place outside the space station, with a total of 17 different astronauts involved. The Shenzhou 15 mission crew (November 2022-June 2023) conducted the most EVAs of any mission, with four.