Astronaut Zhai Zhigang became the first Chinese man to walk in space today, clambering out of China's Shenzhou VII space craft and waving to the camera.
'I'm feeling quite well. I greet the Chinese people and the people of the world,' Zhai said as he climbed out of the craft, his historic achievement carried live on state television.
Zhai, the 41-year-old son of a snack-seller chosen for the first 'extra-vehicular activity,' unveiled a small Chinese flag, helped by colleague Liu Boming, who also briefly popped his head out of the capsule.
The third crew member, Jing Haipeng, monitored the ship from inside the re-entry module.
Zhai safely returned inside the craft after about 13 minutes. The walk marked the highpoint of China's third manned space journey, which has received blanket media coverage.
Top Communist Party officials including President Hu Jintao watched the spacewalk from a Beijing command centre, breaking into applause with the successful completion of each stage of the manoeuvre.
'Your success represents a new breakthrough in our manned space programme,' Hu told the astronauts in a scripted exchange that was also broadcast live.
Zhai wore a £2m Chinese-made suit made up of ten layers and weighing 120kg. It took the three astronauts or 'taikonauts' 15 hours to piece together.Liu wore a Russian-made one and acted as a back-up.
The risky manoeuvre is a step towards China's longer-term goal of assembling a space lab and then a larger space station.
The fast-growing Asian power wants to be sure of a say in how space and its potential resources are used.
China's Communist Party leaders are celebrating the latest space mission, hailing the country's achievements in a year in which Beijing has staged a successful Olympics and coped with a devastating earthquake in Sichuan.
'On this flight, Chinese people's footprints will be left in space for the first time,' state media Xinhua news said.
'This will give the world yet something else to marvel about China in this extraordinary year of 2008.'
Zhai embarked on his walk after receiving a clean bill of health from doctors on the ground at mission control, Xinhua said.
China's first manned spaceflight was in 2003. A second, two-manned flight followed in 2005. The only other countries that have sent people into space are Russia and the United States.
Shenzhou VII took off on Thursday and is due to land on the northern steppes of Inner Mongolia on Sunday.
While out in space, Zhai will make tests and launch a football-sized 'companion satellite' to monitor the walk and broadcast it back to Earth, where hundreds of millions of Chinese are likely to be glued to their televisions.