In this video grab taken on Saturday, September 27, 2008 from China Central Television, Chinese astronaut Zhai ZhigangconductsChina's first spacewalk outside the Shenzhou VII spacecraft. [Xinhua]
Astronaut Zhai Zhigang became the first Chinese man to walk in space on Saturday, clambering out of China's Shenzhou VII space craft in a technological feat that made the Chinese people excited.
"I'm feeling quite well. I greet the Chinese people and the people of the world," Zhai said as he climbed out of the craft at around 16:40 Beijing time, a historic achievement telecast live on CCTV. Tens of millions of Chinese viewers clustered before TV screens to watch the moment.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and other top leaders had appeared at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center to watch the live transmission of Zhai's spacewalk.
Zhai, 42, chosen by an expert team for the first "extra-vehicular activity," unveiled a red national flag, helped by colleague Liu Boming, who also briefly popped his head out of the capsule.
Zhai slowly made his way towards a test sample of solid lubricant outside the capsule, took a sample and handed it to Liu.
Zhai safely returned inside the craft after about 20 minutes. The walk marked the highpoint of China's third manned space journey, which has received widespread media coverage.
In this video grab taken on Saturday, September 27, 2008 from China Central Television, Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang waves to the camera as he conducts China's first spacewalk. [Xinhua]
Zhai wore a $4.4 million Chinese-made suit weighing 120-kg. Liu wore a Russian-made one and acted as a back-up.
The third crew member, Jing Haipeng, monitored the ship from inside the re-entry module.
The risky manoeuvre is a step towards China's longer-term goal of assembling a space lab and then a larger space station, analysts said.
"On this flight, Chinese people's footprints will be left in space for the first time," said a commentary by the Xinhua news agency.
The astronauts embarked on their walk after receiving a clean bill of health from doctors on the ground at mission control in Beijing, Xinhua said.
In this video grab taken on Saturday, September 27, 2008 from China Central Television, Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang waves a Chinese national flag as he conducts the nation's first spacewalk. [CFP]
Zhai's suit has 10 layers and takes up to 15 hours to assemble and put on.
China's first manned spaceflight was in 2003. A second, two-manned flight followed in 2005. The only other countries that have sent people into space are Russia and the United States.
Shenzhou VII took off on Thursday and is due to land on the northern steppes of Inner Mongolia on Sunday.