China to Send Its First Woman to Space on June 16
China will launch a three-person crew on Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 10:37 UTC (6:37 a.m. EDT) on board a Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, heading to the Tiangong 1 spacelab. The crew includes Liu Yang, the first female Chinese taikonaut. With her will be Jing Haipeng, the commander and a veteran of two other spaceflights and Liu Wang. This will be the first manned docking to the Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Palace), which was launched in September 2011.
The Shenzhou 9 will launch from the Jiuquan Space Launch Center in the Gobi desert in western China.
China will send its first woman and two other astronauts into space today to work on a temporary space station for about a week, in a key step toward becoming only the third nation to set up a permanent base in orbit, the AP reprots.
Liu Yang, a 34-year-old air force fighter pilot, and two male colleagues will be launched aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which will dock with the bus-sized Tiangong 1 space module now orbiting at 343 kilometers above the Earth.
The mission will last more than 10 days before the astronauts return to Earth.
Liu joined the taikonaut training program in May 2010 and was selected as a possible candidate for the docking mission after she excelled in testing, according to the Xinhua news agency.
She initially trained as a cargo pilot and has been praised for her cool handling of an incident when her jet hit a flock of pigeons but she was still able to land the heavily damaged aircraft.
At a press conference, the three taikonauts were behind a glass wall before a small group of hand-picked journalists. They said the manual docking was a “huge test,” but that they had rehearsed the procedure more than 1,500 times.
“The three of us understand each other tacitly. One glance, one facial expression, one movement, we understand each other thoroughly,” said Jing.
Source: 16 June 2012 - Press agency News
Photo: The China to Send Its First Woman to Space (Photo by EPA)