Liu Boming, one of the crew members for the Shenzhou XII mission, receives training on March 26, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Astronauts on the Shenzhou XII mission have undergone intensive training and exercises for their planned extravehicular activities, commonly known as spacewalks, according to Liu Boming, a member of the crew.
“Compared with the extravehicular operation in the Shenzhou VII mission, extravehicular activities in this coming mission will be much longer and more sophisticated, and I believe that there will be difficulties and challenges,” Liu said at a briefing for reporters at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China on Wednesday morning, one day ahead of their departure.
“Therefore, we have received comprehensive, systematic and stringent training,” he said. “We will strive to make every extravehicular task successful through our cooperation and with support from ground control.”
During the planned spacewalks, astronauts will wear a new-generation, domestically developed extravehicular suit, Liu said, adding that one maneuver will involve him standing on a mechanical arm.
Compared with the extravehicular operation in the Shenzhou VII mission, extravehicular activities in this coming mission will be much longer and more sophisticated, and I believe that there will be difficulties and challenges.
Liu Boming, crew member of the Shenzhou XII mission
Ji Qiming, assistant director of the China Manned Space Agency, said on Wednesday at the Jiuquan center that astronauts will make two lengthy spacewalks during the mission and use external mechanical arms to install equipment and check the Tianhe core module’s condition.
Liu took part in the three-day Shenzhou VII spaceflight in September 2008 with Zhai Zhigang and Jing Haipeng. He and Zhai worked together to conduct the first, and so far only, spacewalk by Chinese astronauts.
During the operation, Zhai stayed out of the spacecraft for about 15 minutes while Liu moved the upper half of his body out of the craft for several minutes to assist Zhai.
“It was a great honor for us to undertake the country’s first extravehicular activity,” Liu recalled. “We had some difficulties, but we were determined to accomplish our task and wave our national flag in outer space no matter what happened. Finally, we made it.”
Tang Hongbo, who will embark on his first space trip, said at the meeting that he has been undergoing demanding training for 11 years and passed many selection rounds and tests to qualify for the Shenzhou XII mission.
“This will be my first mission, so I do feel the pressure in my mind,” he told reporters. “But I am convinced that pressure can translate into motivation, and our confidence is a guarantee of success.”
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Tang said the crew will unite as one and strive to build the Chinese space station into a “home in space for the Chinese nation”. He added he is looking forward to seeing his “beautiful motherland and hometown” when the spacecraft flies over China.