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Chinese Cheer 1st Spacewalk

September 29, 2008

By The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese celebrated their nation’s first spacewalk Saturday, gathering at outdoor TV screens to cheer live video of the milestone for a program that has ambitions of building a space station and challenging the U.S. and Russia in off-world exploration.

Stoking national pride one month after the close of the Beijing Olympics, state television’s coverage reflected much of the glory onto president and Communist Party leader Hu Jintao, who was present at Thursday’s launch and watched the spacewalk at Beijing’s ground control center. “Your success represents a new breakthrough in our manned space program,” Hu told the astronauts in a scripted exchange that was also broadcast live.

“The motherland and the people thank you,” said Hu, who is chairman of the powerful Communist Party and government military committees that oversee the space program.

The spacewalk was mainly aimed at testing China’s mastery of the technology. Mission commander Zhai Zhigang’s sole task was to retrieve a rack attached to the outside of the orbital module containing an experiment involving solid lubricants.

Tethered to handles attached to the Shenzhou 7 ship’s orbital module, Zhai remained outside for about 13 minutes before climbing back inside through the open hatch. “Greetings to all the people of the nation and all the people of the world,” Zhai said into an external camera he floated halfway out of the open hatch.

Fellow astronaut Liu Boming also emerged briefly from the capsule to hand Zhai a Chinese flag. The third crew member, Jing Haipeng, monitored the ship from inside the re-entry module.

(c) 2008 Telegraph – Herald (Dubuque). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.