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Chinese taikonauts' great leap into space

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese "taikonauts" Yang Liwei and Zhai Zhigang talk to CNN
  • First Chinese man in space and first Chinese to conduct a spacewalk, respectively
  • Talk about their historic moments to international space race

(CNN) -- China's space program has really taken off in the last six years.

In 2003 Yang Liwei became a national hero when he became the first Chinese man in space, followed five years later by Zhai Zhigang who became the first "taikonaut" to make a spacewalk.

"The moment I stepped out of the hatch and entered space, the sensation of completely becoming one with space was a feeling I had never felt before on Earth," Zhai told CNN.

"I deliberately looked into outer space, looking past my toes and deep into outer space. The differing brightness and distances of the celestial bodies really brought out the deepness of outer space. The vast, boundless expanse of outer space stirred my soul."

Video: Lofty goals

From out of this world moments to their place in Chinese history, these two pioneering spacemen tell CNN's John Vause about their missions, how they had prepared for the worst should things go wrong and if China and other nations with the moon in their sights are creating a new international space race.

"The moment I stepped out of the hatch and entered space, the sensation of completely becoming one with space was a feeling I had never felt before on Earth," Zhai told CNN.

"I deliberately looked into outer space, looking past my toes and deep into outer space. The differing brightness and distances of the celestial bodies really brought out the deepness of outer space. The vast, boundless expanse of outer space stirred my soul."

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From out of this world moments to their place in Chinese history, these two pioneering spacemen tell CNN's John Vause about their missions, how they had prepared for the worst should things go wrong and if China and other nations with the moon in their sights are creating a new international space race.