Chinese astronauts preparing for return to earth

September 28th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Sep 28 (Xinhua) Chinese astronauts onboard the spacecraft Shenzhou-VII started preparing Sunday morning for the return trip to the earth after accomplishing China’s first spacewalk Saturday afternoon. The three astronauts were taking on in-cabin space suits at 11:10 a.m. and control data for the return trip would be sent to the spacecraft.

During the spacewalk mission Zhai Zhigang, 42, commander of the three-man mission, slipped out of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft orbiting 343 km above Earth and said, “I feel good”. He waved to cameras broadcasting the event live in China as he left the craft’s orbital module head-first at 4:39 p.m.

Donning his 120-kg China-made protective suit Feitian, Zhai retrieved a 3-kg solid lubricant experiment from the rear of Shenzhou VII and handed it to fellow astronaut Liu Boming as he was tethered to spacecraft by two safety lines and a cord through which they were fed oxygen and communications links.

Liu, wearing Russia’s Orlan model spacesuit, assisted Zhai in exiting the orbiter while the third and final astronaut on the mission, Jing Haiping, remained in the re-entry module.

The crew had spent more than 11 hours Friday unpacking and assembling the suits and then underwent 100 minutes of training to get used to the get-ups.

The Shenzhou-VII spacecraft took off from northwest China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre at 9:10 p.m. Thursday, and is scheduled to land on the Inner Mongolia steppe at about 5:40 p.m. Sunday

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