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A spacewalk just took place that wasn’t at the ISS

The International Space Station (ISS) has been orbiting Earth for the last two decades, but did you know that another habitable satellite reached space in April?

China’s space station is currently hosting its second crew of Chinese astronauts, and on Sunday the facility saw its fourth spacewalk since deployment.

Two astronauts conduct a spacewalk at China's space station.
Mission commander Zhai Zhigang and fellow astronaut Ye Guangfu during Sunday’s spacewalk. CGTN

Two of the three Shenzhou-13 astronauts who arrived at the orbiting station in October emerged from the Tianhe core module over the weekend to install equipment on the exterior of the station, which orbits 230 miles above Earth, about 20 miles below the ISS.

Mission commander Zhai Zhigang and fellow astronaut Ye Guangfu participated in the spacewalk — or extravehicular activity (EVA) as the task is officially known — while Wang Yaping assisted from inside the station, reported.

This was Ye’s first spacewalk, and the third for Zhai. The more experienced of the two gained recognition in 2008 when he became the first Chinese citizen to conduct an EVA.

Zhai’s second spacewalk took place in November, which also saw Wang become the first Chinese woman to participate in an EVA.

Sunday’s work included raising a third panoramic camera outside Tianhe and carrying out various equipment tests, with the two astronauts returning to the interior of the station about six hours later.

China is planning to gradually expand the size of its space station and next year will launch two new modules designed for science research.

The current Shenzhou-13 mission, which is scheduled to run until April, followed the Shenzhou-12 mission that ran from June through October and which marked China’s first astronaut mission since 2016. Two successful spacewalks took place at Tianhe during the Shenzhou-12 mission.

China has been investing heavily in its increasingly ambitious space program, with President Xi Jinping earlier stating that China’s first fully operational space station will open “new horizons” in humanity’s efforts to learn more about the cosmos.

The country’s space program has been scoring some notable successes of late, including the successful deployment of its first Mars rover and the completion of an uncrewed moon mission that brought lunar rocks to Earth.

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