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British media closely follow China's spacewalk
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China's first spacewalk Saturday seemed to offer a bright spot for British media, laboring for days under the gloom of the global financial crisis.

The Times online carried a story with the headline "China celebrates its first spacewalk," calling it "the latest milestone in an ambitious program."

Zhai Zhigang, the mission commander, floated out of the orbital module's hatch during the spacewalk, beamed live on China's state television service, CCTV, the story describes.

Tethered to handles attached to the exterior of the Shenzhou-7 spaceship's orbital module, Zhai remained outside for about 20 minutes before returning to the module and closing the hatch behind him.

A fellow astronaut, Liu Boming, also emerged briefly from the capsule to hand Zhai a Chinese flag that he waved before an exterior camera filming the event. The third crew member, Jing Haipeng, monitored the ship from inside the re-entry module.

A story in The Telegraph, headlined "China carries out first space walk," said "the main purpose of the flight was to prepare the technical skills, including the docking of two orbiters together, necessary for the development of a Chinese space station."

"The mission was also considered an essential step towards a manned mission to the moon," it added.

The Guardian said "Zhai Zhigang today became the first Chinese person to walk in space, marking the highlight of his country's third manned mission."

"The maneuver is a step towards China's long-term goal of assembling a space laboratory and station."

China's first manned spaceflight was in 2003. A second flight manned by two astronauts followed in 2005. The only other countries to have launched humans into space are Russia and the United States.

(Xinhua News Agency September 27, 2008)

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