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Official: Taikonaut Zhai Zhigang to Perform China's 1st Spacewalk

The Shenzhou-7 mission leader Zhai Zhigang has been confirmed to perform a spacewalk, the mission headquarters announced on Saturday afternoon.

Zhai, who celebrates his 42nd birthday next month, is scheduled to move out the orbiter around 4:30 PM on Saturday. Crew member Liu Boming will aid him in the orbital module. Another taikonaut Jing Haipeng stays in the re-entry module.

The square-faced Zhai was born in a poor family in Longjiang County of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. His mother sold roasted sunflower seeds to support him and five siblings to school. His elder brother Zhai Zhiqiang described him as "filial and mature for his age" since he was young.

Zhai started training as an astronaut about 10 years ago. He made the final list of candidates for the Shenzhou-5, China's first manned space mission in 2003, and the Shenzhou-6 in 2005, but didn't get to fly in both missions.

The father of a teenage boy likes calligraphy and ballroom dancing, and plays video games with his son in the spare time.

(Xinhua News Agency September 27, 2008)

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