Chinese astronaut walks in space

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Zhigang was holding the Chinese flag while in Space

A Chinese taikonaut (Chinese astronaut) today became the first taikonaut to walk in space when he left his space craft for a total of fifteen minutes. The entire event, which marks a new stage in China's space program, was broadcast live on national TV.

The walk started at 1630 local time (0830 UTC) today when he exited the spacecraft, while attached to an umbilical cable. The other two astronauts on the spacecraft stayed entirely inside the vehicle while in space, except when passing the flag to Zhigang.

Zhai Zhigang, who has also worked as a fighter pilot, carried out the space walk. "I'm feeling quite well. I greet the Chinese people and the people of the world," he said as he walked out of his spacecraft to start the walk.

While carrying out the walk, Zhigang wore a Chinese spacesuit, which is believed to have cost between US$10m and $40m to create.

Before the event, the Chinese president Hu Jintao wished the astronauts success. "I have come to send you off, to wish you success," he said in a televised speech. "You will wear the homemade Fetian space suit for the first time and carry out China's first extravehicular activity (space walk), which is a great stride for our country's space technology and development."