China's Shenzhou 13 crew takes its first spacewalk, the country's 1st by a female astronaut

On Nov. 7, 2021, the first spacewalk was made by astronauts from China's Shenzhou 13 mission. They were on their way to Tiangong space station module Tianhe. It was crewed with Zhai Zhigang, commander of Shenzhou 13, and Wang Yaping. Wang Yaping is China's first woman spacewalker.
The Shenzhou 13 astronauts from China's space station made their first spacewalk Sunday (Nov. 7, 2017). This was the first spacewalk undertaken by a woman astronaut.

Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping, Shenzhou 13 crewmembers, arrived at Tianhe's Tianhe station module just hours after the launch of Oct. 15. China Manned Space Agency (Chinese ) announced the plans for the spacewalk on Friday (Nov. 5) in a statement. The agency didn't provide any details on the exact timing of the spacewalk or the objectives, nor who would be participating in the extravehicular activity.

CMSA announced on Sunday that the spacewalk was in progress. It was being carried out by Zhai Zhifang (the Shenzhou 13 mission commander) and Wang Yaping (the country's second female astronaut who has flown in space). Wang is China's first female astronaut. The spacewalk was expected last for six hours.

Related: China's latest space news

China's second female astronaut was Wang Yaping, who was aboard the Shenzhou 10 mission in 2013. Zhai was the first Chinese astronaut to successfully spacewalk in space during the Shenzhou 7 mission.

In CCTV interviews with Chinese space officials, there were hints that Wang would do the spacewalk.

"The Shenzhou 13 astronauts are done with their settling in. They have also unpacked the extravehicular suits we sent up with Tianzhou 3, and performed various tests to ensure that the suit is ready for extravehicular activities." Wu Hao, an assistant researcher at the China Astronaut Research and Training Center, stated CCTV.

During the October 2021 crew announcement by China Manned Space Agency Shenzou 13, Astronaut Wang Yaping salutes. (Image credit to CMSE

Tianzhou 2 received two suits to support Shenzhou 12 spacewalks. However, the additional suit indicated that it could have been one for Wang.

According to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center press conference, two to three extravehicular activities were announced for the six-month-long Shenzhou 13 mission. The major objectives included installing an adaptor that would allow Tianhe’s large arm to connect with another smaller arm on a future module.

The Shenzhou 13 crew were on orbit for three weeks. This mission will last twice as long than the Shenzhou 12 China's longest mission, which lasted three months.

The CMSA statement stated that the astronauts successfully transferred supplies from Tianzhou's cargo spacecraft to Tianhe. They also performed daily exercises to counter microgravity, conducted medical examinations, and carried out scientific experiments.

Wang Yaping, Ye Guangfu and Ye Guangfu made their first space trip. This week, footage was released that showed how they tested the microbial contents of Tianhe's water.