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On November 8, astronaut Wang Yaping made history as she became China’s first woman to conduct a spacewalk.
According to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), Yaping ventured outside of China’s Tiangong space station with astronaut Zhai Zhigang for six hours to install equipment and work on the station’s robotic arm. They also tested the safety of supporting equipment.
“This marks the first extravehicular activity of the Shenzhou-13 crew, and it is also the first in China’s space history involving the participation of a woman astronaut,” CMSA said in its statement. “The whole process was smooth and successful.”
Yaping, Zhai and fellow astronaut Ye Guangfu are all a part of China’s Shenzhou-13 crew, which launched into space on October 16. The crew is on a six-month mission in the Tianhe module, which is the core of the space station. Though the station is currently unfinished, China plans to have the station fully crewed and operational by the end of 2022.
Compared to the International Space Station (ISS), Tiangong is projected to be much smaller in scope. Tiangong will only have three modules, while the ISS has 16. However, because of the United States’ 2011 Wolf Amendment, Chinese astronauts cannot dock at the ISS.
Before Yaping, only 15 women in the world had done a spacewalk. Soviet astronaut Svetlana Savitskaya was the first woman to complete one in 1984, but since then mostly American NASA astronauts have conducted spacewalks.