According to the China Manned Space Agency, at 0:33 on September 2, after about six hours of extravehicular activities, Shenzhou-14 astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe completed all scheduled tasks during extravehicular activities, and Chen Dong and Liu Yang safely returned to the Wentian experiment module.
This is the first time that astronauts have entered space through the Wentian module airlock, and they were assisted by mechanical arms. It is also the first time that Chen Dong and Liu Yang have performed a spacewalk mission.
During the astronauts’ extravehicular activities, careful cooperation was completed between the space station and ground center, and also inside and outside the experiment module. The astronauts installed the extended pump set of the Wentian lab module, which plays a role in the station’s thermal control system, raised a panoramic camera attached outside the Wentian module to provide a large field of view, and tested capabilities and procedures for an emergency return to the space station. The whole process was smooth and complete, testing the ability of astronauts to work together with mechanical arms, and verifying the functional performance of the Wentian laboratory module airlock and supporting equipment related to extravehicular activities.
The airlock is the “middle zone” between astronauts going back and forth between the space station with normal atmospheric pressure and the space with vacuum environment. China’s space station is designed with three airlocks. The first four extravehicular activities of China Space Station were all carried out in the Tianhe core module, and there was a “node module.” This has many functions, such as docking and berthing of the spacecraft, and exiting of astronauts, but it is not the main airlock module of the China Space Station. The Wentian experiment module airlock is the main exit passage for astronauts.
The Wentian experiment module airlock is equipped with a full set of extravehicular spacesuits and other extravehicular activity support equipment, which can support astronauts’ onboard oxygen supply, refrigeration and module crossing during extravehicular activities. Usually, airlock can also support extravehicular spacesuit storage, on-orbit detection, astronaut training and so on.
After successfully leaving the airlock, the astronauts are linked to the space station by a telescopic safety tether. This kind of safety rope can ensure the safe connection between astronauts and the space station for more than 10 meters, without hooking spacesuits or interfering with astronauts’ movement, and can also withstand the test of harsh environments such as large temperature differences of nearly 200ºC in space, space irradiation and space particles.