The astronauts arrived on June 17 for a three-month mission aboard China’s third orbiting station, part of an ambitious space program that landed a rover robot on Mars in May. Its mission comes as the ruling Communist Party celebrates the centenary of its founding.
The station’s first module, Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, was released on April 29. This was followed by an automated spacecraft with food and fuel. Liu, Nie, and Tang arrived on June 17 aboard a capsule from Shenzhou.
On Sunday, Liu and Tang were completing the installation of a robotic arm that will be used to assemble the rest of the station, according to state media. State TV said their spacesuits are designed to allow them to work in the vacuum of space for up to six hours if necessary.
The space agency plans a total of 11 launches through the end of next year to add two more modules to the 70-ton station.
Liu is a veteran of the Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008, during which Zhai Zhigang conducted China’s first spacewalk. Never is on his third trip to space while Liu is making his first. They are all military pilots.