Watch Chinese astronauts fix Tiangong space station solar wing in 8-hour spacewalk (video)

A pair of Chinese astronauts spent eight hours outside their space station last weekend to carry out repairs on the facility.

It was the second extravehicular activity, or spacewalk, of the ongoing Shenzhou 17 crewed mission and the 14th overall carried out at China's Tiangong space station.

Astronaut Jiang Xinlin opened the Wentian experiment module extravehicular activity hatch at 4:40 p.m. EST on March 1 (2140 GMT; or 5:40 a.m. Beijing time on March 2) and was joined outside Tiangong by mission commander Tang Hongbo. The third member of the Shenzhou 17 crew, Tang Shengjie, remained inside Tiangong to support operations using the space station's robotic arm.

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Shenzhou-17 astronauts perform a spacewalk to perform solar arrays on the Tiangong space station on March 1, 2024. (Image credit: CMSA)

The main objective of the mission was maintenance of the solar array of Tiangong's Tianhe core module. These large area solar panels are at times impacted by micrometeoroids. The pair began extravehicular inspection tasks after confirming repairs to the solar array had resulted in normal power generation. 

Tang and Jiang safely returned to Wentian at 0532 GMT March 2, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). The agency announced a day earlier that the spacewalk was due in the near future. It confirmed the EVA had taken place after the astronauts had safely returned to Wentian.

The agency later released short clips of the activity, showing the astronauts moving outside Tiangong while tethered to the station and carrying out maintenance on a solar array.

"The astronauts' performance was flawless. Although it was Jiang Xinlin's first time engaging in extravehicular activities on the robotic arm, he showed composure and remained calm," Wu Dawei, deputy chief designer of China's manned space program astronaut system, told China Central Television (CCTV). 

"The coordination between him and fellow astronauts, and with the ground team, was perfect. The mission was completed perfectly following our designed procedures and plans in the whole process," Wu said.

The Shenzhou 17 mission launched in late October 2023. They conducted their first spacewalk in December.

The crew are expected to complete a six-month-long mission aboard Tiangong and handover the station to the incoming Shenzhou 18 crew around April or May. 

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.