Taikonaut Zhai completes China’s first spacewalk (Second lead)

September 27th, 2008 - 5:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Sep 27 (Xinhua) Chinese taikonaut Zhai Zhigang slipped out of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft Saturday afternoon and completed the country’s fist spacewalk mission, spending about half-an hour in the outer space and conducting experiments.Donning a $4-million homemade Feitian space suit, Zhai, the commander of the three-man mission, waved to the camera mounted on the service module after pulling himself out of the capsule in a head-out-first position at 4:43 p.m., video monitor at the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre (BACC) showed.

“I am here greeting the Chinese people and people of the whole world,” the astronaut told mission control in Beijing, which broadcast the entire event live.

Minutes after Zhai was outside the capsule, teammate Liu Boming emerged from the orbital module hatch and handed Zhai a Chinese national flag. Zhai waved the flag to the camera.

Video monitor at the ground control showed Zhai then slowly moved towards a test sample of solid lubricant placed outside the orbital module. He took the sample and handed it over to Liu.

After the handover, Zhai, who dreamed of flying into space when he was an impoverished teenager, started the core part of the space adventure, spacewalk.

The taikonaut, tethered to the spacecraft with two safety wires and a long electric “cord” providing oxygen and communications, moved slowly along a set of handrails around the orbital module.

He walked step by step by shifting the wire hooks connecting him and the spacecraft before returning to the spacecraft.

Chinese President Hu Jintao watched Zhai’s manoeuvres at the mission control centre in the capital.

Zhai made China the third nation to conduct a spacewalk after the US and Russia. The three countries are also the only ones to have conducted manned space missions.

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 on Sunday.

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