Tag Archives: Zhai Zhigang

Spacewalks, Milestones and the Party Plenum

It was shorter than expected, 13 mins, but a spacewalk nonetheless, and the latest milestone in China’s fast advancing space program.

Astronaut Zhai Zhigang, floated out of Shenzhou 7′s orbital module on Saturday afternoon, and at one point waved a Chinese flag. Xinhua has lots of coverage, including pictures of Zhai and flag (How do you get a flag to wave in space, by the way?).

The next milestone is assembling a space station from two Shenzhou orbital modules. Then lunar exploration including putting a man on the moon, possibly ahead of the Americans’ planned return in 2020.

Saturday’s spacewalk was shown live on state TV and watched at a Beijing command center by top party officials, including President Hu Jintao.

The space program provides a patriotic diversion from the tainted milk scandal, which has taken some of the bloom off the glories of the Beijing Olympics ahead of what promises to be a contentious party plenum due to follow the Oct. 1 National Day celebrations. (I commend China Brief‘s curtain raiser on the meeting to those interested.)

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China’s First Spacewalk Due On Friday

The first Chinese spacewalk is due to occur on Friday, according to the commander-in-chief of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft. As we have noted before, it will be broadcast live, though there will probably be some time delay, for expediency’s sake.

The countdown for Thursday’s launch has started. China’s third manned space flight comes just five years after its first, when the country joined Russia and the U.S. in the space club. Zhai Zhigang, an air force pilot, will make the walk, and, no doubt, unleash a fresh wave of patriotic pride.

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