|Fighter pilot, PLAAF|
|Rank||Major general, PLASSF|
Time in space
|Currently in space|
|Selection||Chinese Group 1|
Total EVA time
|Missions||Shenzhou 7, Shenzhou 13|
Zhai Zhigang (born October 10, 1966) is a major general of the People's Liberation Army Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) in active service as a People's Liberation Army Astronaut Corps (PLAAC) taikonaut. During the Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008, he became the first Chinese citizen to carry out a spacewalk. He was a People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighter pilot.
Zhai was born in Longjiang County, Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province. He enrolled at the PLA Air Force Aviation University and studied to be a fighter pilot and then as a squadron leader. Zhai became a lieutenant colonel and pilot trainer in the PLAAF after logging 1000 hours of flying time.
In 1996, Zhai was selected to trial for the taikonaut program and was selected to be the first group of fourteen in 1998. He was one of three members of the final group to train for the Shenzhou 5 flight. Yang Liwei was picked for the flight, with Zhai Zhigang ranked second ahead of Nie Haisheng. Zhai was one of the six taikonauts in the final training for Shenzhou 6. The Ta Kung Pao newspaper had reported that Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng were the leading pair, after having been in the final group of three for Shenzhou 5. However, Zhai had been paired with Wu Jie during training. Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng flew the flight.
Zhai, along with Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng was selected for prime crew on Shenzhou 7, with Zhai as commander, on 17 September 2008. On 25 September 2008, at 21:10 CST, they launched into space as the first three-man crew for China, China's third human spaceflight mission. On 27 September 2008, Zhai became the first Chinese astronaut to spacewalk, completely outside the craft. Fellow crew member Liu Boming stood by at the airlock and could be seen straddling the portal. Zhai successfully completed his spacewalk at 18:25 CST. Zhai wore the Chinese developed Feitian space suit, while Liu wore the Russian derived Orlan-M space suit.
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