ROME — Italian media closely followed Sunday’s spacewalk by Chinese astronauts, calling it a major milestone for the expanding Chinese Manned Space Agency(CMSA).
Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo shot into space last month aboard the Shenzhou-12 spaceship, and the CMSA reported that two of them left Tiangong, the core module of the space station, for a seven-hour spacewalk Sunday when they tested out new-generation spacesuits, installed equipment, elevated a panoramic camera, and tested Tiangong’s robotic arm.
The spacewalk was the first of two scheduled for the three-month mission, which will be the longest manned space flight carried out by CMSA.
News of the development was placed high on Italian news sites, with several posting multi-minute videos of the ambitious spacewalk.
Corriere della Sera, among Italy’s most widely-circulated newspapers, called the spacewalk “electrifying,” while Il Sole/24 Ore, the country’s main economic-oriented publication, said it was “historic.” La Repubblica, another major news site, called the latest developments “stunning” and “advanced” and state broadcaster RAI said the spacewalk was a sign of the “unprecedented” rapid development of China’s space program.
China’s space program successfully deployed exploratory rovers on the moon in the past few years and a rover on Mars in May this year.
News from space is of particular interest in Italy, which has a long history related to space travel. The country is a major contributor to the missions of ESA, the European Space Agency. The country has so far sent seven astronauts into space — either aboard ESA missions or in collaboration with the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA — starting with Franco Malerba, who became the first Italian in space in 1992.
The CMSA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) have worked together on the development of technologies related to manned space flight since 2017. Last year, when Italy and China jointly celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations, the countries agreed to further cooperate in the area of space flight.