Monday, September 29, 2008
CHINA’S FIRST SPACEWALK – AN EPIC JOURNEY TO THE UNIVERSE
On the Thursday evening of 25 September 2008 I sat motionless in front of the television in my Medan residence and watched the live telecast by CCTV9 of the launching of the Shenzhou7 spacecraft carrying 3 Chinese astronauts or taikonauts, namely Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng, all of 42 years old. The spaceship was sent into its designated orbit by the Long-March II-F rocket. The count down of 10 for the blast off from the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Gansu Province took place exactly at 9.10pm Beijing time.
The historical spacewalk successfully performed by Zhai Zhigang was witnessed by the world as it was broadcast live on television. He slipped out of the orbital module of Shenzhou7 at about 4.43pm Beijing time on 27 September 2008. Accordingly, it lasted about 20 minutes on that Saturday afternoon.
The spacecraft circled the earth 46 laps and the 3 Chinese taikonauts returned to earth after 68-hour mission, and landed in Inner Mongolia at 5.38pm on 28 September 2008. The safe return on Sunday afternoon thus concluded the successful China’s first-ever spacewalk mission.