Sunday, September 28, 2008
Congratulations China on EVA and 3rd Mission!
Congratulations to Chinese astronauts Zhai Zhigong, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng for the completion of China's third manned space mission, and for Zhai and Liu's successful first EVA for their space program! This was a huge step for the Chinese program towards building and operating long-duration spacecraft.
The EVA lasted only about eighteen minutes, but it accomplished the goals of demonstrating EVA capability, testing of the suit, and stoking national pride. Zhai left the airlock, while Liu waited inside, poking his head out to take a look around.
Zhai's spacesuit was designed and made in China, while Liu wore a Russian Orlan suit. The two systems are clearly compatible, since they were used together. Indeed, the Chinese suit looks a lot like the Orlan, except that it is white in color and there is no "moon roof" window on the top of the helmet.
One interesting thing that I observed, is that what appears to be Zhai's electrical umbilical remained attached to his suit during the entire EVA. I'm not sure why the Chinese specialists would have done it that way. I would have thought that they would have wanted to test the suit's battery and the function of the systems on battery power. Perhaps they were just being ultra conservative. Zhai had clearly disconnected his water/oxygen umbilical. The Orlan suit features an emergency oxygen connector, but I didn't see one on Zhai's suit. It may have been tucked away in a pocket.
There is talk that China's next mission will feature rendezvous and docking, probably with the upper living module from this Shenzhou 7 spacecraft. The plan appears to be to conncect two or more of these modules together to form a mn-tended lab or hab, as a precursor to a full up space station. Although they've backed off publicly on a manned moon mission, you can bet that's in work. The moon is important culturally to China and it would be historic and a public-relations coup if they become the first to be back to the moon with astronauts since the Apollo program.