First space walk for china space program
USA Today reports Saturday that China has celebrated its first-ever space walk, which fueled discussion about building a space station and getting into areas of exploration previously dominated by Russia and the United States.
One month after the close of the Beijing Olympics, national pride was amplified as crowds gathered before outdoor television screens to watch the live broadcast of the event Saturday.
The article goes on to say that President Hu Jintao was present at Thursday's launch and watched the spacewalk at Beijing's ground control center. State coverage of the event reflected much of the glory of the event onto him.
"Your success represents a new breakthrough in our manned space program," Hu told the astronauts in a scripted exchange that was also broadcast live.
Hu also chairs the powerful Communist Party and government military committees that oversee the space program.
The goal of the spacewalk was to master the technology involved. USA Today says that, "Mission commander Zhai Zhigang's sole task was to retrieve a rack attached to the outside of the orbital module containing an experiment involving solid lubricants."
While the spacewalk was successful, it wasn't without its anxious moments. Zhai, a 41-year-old fighter pilot, appeared to struggle with the hatch and a fire alarm was triggered in the orbiter as he began the spacewalk.
The spacewalk paves the way for assembling a space station from two Shenzhou orbital modules, which, according to the article, is the next major goal of China's manned spaceflight program.