by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 28, 2008
China's first successful spacewalk triggered an outpouring of national pride on Sunday, with ordinary citizens and state-run media hailing it as a historic national achievement.
"Following the Soviets and Americans, the black-haired and yellow-skinned Chinese have now left a footprint in space," declared a Beijing Youth Daily commentary, which also evoked the words of US astronaut Neil Armstrong.
"This is one small step for a man, but one giant leap for the country," it said.
The Shenhou VII mission was due to return to Earth on Sunday a day after commander Zhai Zhigang made China the third country to complete a spacewalk after the United States and the former Soviet Union.
The mission, China's third manned space flight and the latest step forward in a fledgling space programme, has fired national pride already lifted by the successful recent staging of the Beijing Olympics.
"I felt so proud when I saw Zhai Zhigang emerge from the cabin with the Chinese flag. Seeing the five-starred red flag in space, it shows China can do anything it sets its mind to," said He Changqiang, a Beijing businessman.
"The Beijing Olympics brought us much pride, and now this makes us even more proud."
During the spacewalk, Zhai waved the five-starred red Chinese flag -- a moment of great drama and symbolism just days before the 50th anniversary of the US space agency NASA on Wednesday, which is also China's National Day.
The People's Daily, the Communist Party's main mouthpiece, headlined its coverage of the spacewalk, "The five-starred red flag flies in space", words echoed all over Chinese Internet sets.
"With the flag flying over the cosmos, space has now become part of the great Chinese motherland," said one posting on popular portal Sohu.com.
Another said: "Bravo to our triumphant heroes. China has become even greater. This should announce to the world that China can achieve anything."
The spacewalk was the highlight of the three-day voyage -- China's third manned foray into space -- and is considered an important step towards China's next major space ambition: building a space station.
President Hu Jintao set the tone for the Chinese reaction in a televised chat with Zhai on Saturday.
"Your spacewalk was a complete success. It's a major breakthrough in the development of our manned space programme," Hu said from the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre.
"The motherland and the people thank you."
State press called the spacewalk one of the crowning glories of China's "reform and opening" period, the three decades of economic liberalisation and modernisation begun 30 years ago by the late Deng Xiaoping.
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
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