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China Leaves Footprints in Space


A Chinese astronaut has made the historic first step in outer space for his country. With the successful spacewalk, China has become the third country, after the United States and Russia, to do so. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

Cheering erupted in the control room when Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang opened the hatch of the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft and went outside.

His emergence from the module was captured by video cameras mounted on the outside of the space ship and broadcast live to millions of Chinese viewers.

Zhai, who became China's first-ever spacewalker, waved to the camera at this historic moment.

Zhai says he sends greetings to the Chinese people and all the people in the world. Shortly afterwards, his teammate handed him a Chinese national flag, which he also waved for the camera.

Outside the craft, Zhai recovered a scientific experiment that official Chinese media said were solid lubricant samples. The ship also will release a satellite that will circle the orbiter and send back images to mission command.

For his 20 minute spacewalk, Zhai wore a Chinese-made Feitian suit, which is being highlighted as the first indigenous space suit.

It cost nearly $4.5 million, has 10 layers and weighs about 120 kilograms.

The Feitian is like a mini space ship. It provides pressurized atmosphere, oxygen and temperature control to keep astronauts alive in outer space, while still allowing them to carry out their tasks. The suit also protects wearers from radiation and small flying meteoroids.

One of the Shenzhou 7 astronauts, who did not actually exit the craft, wore a Russian-made Orlan space suit. Chinese authorities say Russian experts have been on hand to support the entire mission.

Shenzhou 7 launched Thursday night from the western province of Gansu, and is due to land in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia Sunday.

Official Chinese media report the country's ultimate goal is to build a permanent space laboratory and a larger-scale space engineering system. The chief designer of the Shenzhou spacecraft system, Zhang Bainan, is quoted as saying China is planning to begin mass production of the spacecraft starting from the Shenzhou 8 mission.

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