Thirty-seven years after Soviet astronaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space, Wang Yaping has become the first Chinese woman to spacewalk.
Wang, 41, successfully completed a spacewalk with fellow astronaut Zhai Zhigang, 55, on Monday morning.
It’s the first time the crew has exited the station since their arrival on October 16 at China’s new Tiangong Space Station.
The two astronauts are part of a three-member Shenzhou-13 crew. Ye Guangfu, 41, the third member of the crew, stayed on the space station to support the spacewalk from the core module.
China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) stated that Wang’s team will stay up in space for 183 days, which is the longest time in space ever spent by Chinese astronauts.
According to Global Times, the six-and a half hour long spacewalk saw the two astronauts install a suspension device and transfer connectors to the station’s robotic arm.
They also tested the safety of supporting equipment, including China’s own spacesuit, which is produced domestically.
In a 2015 interview with CNN, Wang reflected on the first time she looked down on Earth from space.
“When I looked out of the window for the first time, I realised the true meaning of the power of life… that kind of beauty was just beyond comprehension,” she said.
The former pilot of the Wuhan Air Force had only started her under-water weightlessness training this year, in a pool holding over 4200 tonnes of water, the largest simulated weightless training pool in Asia.
The pool was built in 2007 for Shenzhou-7 EVA missions and future missions, including Wang’s.
Before Wang’s historic spacewalk on Monday, only fifteen women had ever conducted spacewalks. Historically, most female space walkers have been American NASA astronauts.
Yang Yuguang, Vice Chair of Space Transportation Committee for International Astronautical Federation, told the Global Times that female spacewalkers are “an integral part of manned space,” and that Wang has made history due to her “bravery.”
Worldwide attention for China’s latest feat has been slightly marred by the gendered language used by the Global Times, an English-language Chinese newspaper controlled by the CCP.
The same article quoted a Beijing-based former space researcher who said that female astronauts were “more stable with adaptable mental states,” and “more sensitive to any problems in their surroundings.”
The Shenzhou-13 crew will conduct more spacewalks during their six-month stay.
China is aiming to have the Tiangong Space Station fully operational by December 2022.
Photo Credit: Xinhua