First Chinese woman on spacewalk works for six hours outside space station

Chinese astronauts floating outside China's space station
Chinese astronauts Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping conduct extra-vehicular activities outside the core module of China’s space station.
(Guo Zhongzheng / Xinhua News Agency)

Wang Yaping has become the first Chinese woman to conduct a spacewalk as part of a six-month mission to China’s space station.

Wang and fellow astronaut Zhai Zhigang left the station’s main module Sunday evening, spending more than six hours outside installing equipment and carrying out tests alongside the station’s robotic service arm, according to the China Manned Space agency.

The third member of the crew, Ye Guangfu, assisted from inside the station, China Manned Space said on its website.


Wang, 41, and Zhai, 55, had both traveled to China’s now-retired experimental space stations, and Zhai conducted China’s first spacewalk 13 years ago.

Adding a crew to China’s new orbiting space station is another major advance for the burgeoning space power.

June 17, 2021

The three astronauts form the second crew on the permanent Chinese space station, and the mission that began with their arrival Oct. 16 is scheduled to be the longest stretch of time in space yet for Chinese astronauts.

The Tianhe core module of the station will be connected next year to two more sections named Mengtian and Wentian. The completed station will weigh about 66 tons, much smaller than the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and weighs around 450 tons.

Three spacewalks are planned to install equipment in preparation for the station’s expansion, while the crew will also assess living conditions in the Tianhe module and conduct experiments in space medicine and other fields.

China’s military-run space program plans to send multiple crews to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional.