September 27, 2008

Chinese Astronaut Makes Nation’s First Spacewalk

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

[Xinhua: "4th-Ld: Chinese Taikonaut Debuts Spacewalk"]

BEIJING, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) - Chinese taikonaut Zhai Zhigang slipped out of the orbital module of Shenzhou-7 Saturday afternoon, starting China's first spacewalk or extravehicular activity (EVA) in the outer space.

Donning a 4-million-USdollar homemade Feitian space suit, Zhai 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. (0843 gmt), video monitor at the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre (BACC) showed.

"Shenzhou-7 is now outside the spacecraft. I feel well. I am here greeting the Chinese people and people of the whole world," the 42- year-old taikonaut reported to the ground control in Beijing.

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.

Zhai "walked step by step" by shifting the wire hooks connecting him and the spacecraft.

The Shenzhou-7 spacecraft took off from northwest China's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre at 9:10 p.m. on Thursday, and is scheduled to land on the Inner Mongolia steppe on Sunday.

Originally published by Xinhua news agency, Beijing, in English 0911 27 Sep 08.

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