Chinese Astronauts Walk in Space

Dennis Faas's picture

After showing the world it could safely conduct the Olympics, China has again drawn the attention of the global community. As if the country's steady economic incline hasn't been noticeable enough, the emerging superpower can now add space walking to its growing list of achievements.

China's Zhai Zhigang is being welcomed home as a hero this week after he made a 20 minute spacewalk Saturday afternoon. The exploration was part of a larger operation called the "Shenzou VII mission", which began on September 25.

Understandably, the Chinese are ecstatic. After Zhigang and crewmates Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng (all 42) returned to Inner Mongolia's regional capital of Hohhot on Sunday, Chinese citizens flocked to the area hoping to catch a glimpse of the trio.

Even more flooded Beijing's Aerospace Control Center (BACC) on Sunday. Monday morning, thousands packed the area outside the base, banging gongs, popping firecrackers, and waving national flags.

The flight hasn't only drawn the attention of the world, but is also bringing people into Beijing. Restaurants and hotels are seeing some of their best business ever; diners are packed while rooms are in very short supply. Local police reported a startling increase in traffic, up some 40 per cent on Monday. All this just to be in the mere presence of the country's first space-walkers.

Space travel certainly isn't new to China, even if the recent walk is. Although it was the country's young people who flooded Beijing streets to celebrate the Shenzou VII success, many older Chinese remember the many steps the BACC has taken to reach this point. "I've been in the field for 37 years," said one BACC veteran. "The seven Shenzhou missions have been increasingly successful each time. This is definitely the most exciting and happiest night for me." (Source:

The Chinese are hardly sitting still. Sources report that a new Shenzou mission is currently being developed, with as many as fourteen astronauts set to participate in successive flights in 2010.

For their part, American space experts are impressed with the advancements of the Chinese. "I applaud not only their technical achievements but the confidence in their program exhibited by their increasing transparency about the mission," said Joan Johnson-Freese of the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island. "I hope that continues and expands into all areas of their space activities." (Source:

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