China to send its first woman into space
Liu Yang is a trained fighter pilot and a major in China's People's Liberation Army
Fri, Jun 15 2012 at 3:05 AM
TO NEW HEIGHTS: Liu Yang salutes as she was introduced during a press conference at the Jiuquan space base in China's Gansu province on June 15. Yang will be the first female Chinese astronaut. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING — China said on June 15 a female astronaut will be among the three-person team on board the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which will launch on Saturday, June 15, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The Shenzhou-9 will take off at 6:37 pm (1037 GMT) on Saturday from the Jiuquan space base in the Gobi desert for the country's fourth manned space launch, with Liu Yang, 33, and two male astronauts on board, Xinhua said.
They will perform China's first manned space docking, a highly technical procedure that brings together two vessels in high speed orbit and is the latest step in a plan aimed at giving the country a permanent space station by 2020.
Liu's mission, which has been heavily trailed in the Chinese media, will make China the third country after the Soviet Union and United States to send a woman into space using its own technology, and represent another propaganda coup for the one-party communist state.
The 33-year-old, a major in the People's Liberation Army and trained fighter pilot, is married but has no children, according to Chinese media reports.
"From day one I have been told I am no different from the male astronauts," she told the state broadcaster CCTV in an interview broadcast after Friday's announcement.
The two male astronauts are Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, Xinhua said.
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition