BEIJING, September 27 – A Chinese astronaut completed a space walk Saturday, state television said, as China became only the third nation to perform the feat after the United States and the former Soviet Union.,
Zhai Zhigang, 41, left the Shenzhou VII spacecraft at about 4:45 pm Beijing time (0845 GMT) for a walk in orbit that lasted just under 15 minutes, according to the live TV transmission.
"I feel well," Zhai said, waving to a camera outside the spacecraft. "I am greeting the Chinese people and the people of the world."
In a highly symbolic move, Zhai produced a small Chinese flag shortly after leaving the spacecraft, and waved it to the camera.
Zhai slowly moved towards a test sample of solid lubricant placed outside the orbital module, Xinhua news agency said.
He took the sample and handed it over to fellow astronaut Liu Boming who stayed in the orbital module and closely monitored Zhai’s moves.
Zhai returned to the Shenzhou VII’s orbital module, closing its hatch shortly before 5 pm Beijing time (0900 GMT), state TV said.
The walk was supposed to last 20 minutes, with no immediate explanation given for the shortened length of time.
President Hu Jintao had appeared at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center to watch the live transmission of Zhai’s spacewalk, according to Xinhua.
The walk was the highlight of the 68-hour mission — China’s third manned foray into space — and is considered an important step towards building a space station, China’s next major ambition in space.