China to send first woman into space: Xinhua

AFP , Friday 15 Jun 2012

A 33-year old Chinese woman will be among the three-person team on board the Shenzhou-9 speacecraft which will perform a highly technical procedure aimed at giving the country a permanent space station by 2020

China
A Chinese man carries his son walks near the Long March-2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft which moves to the launch pad at the Jiuquan launch center in Jiuquan, China's northwest Gansu province, Saturday, June 9, 2012.(Photo: AP)

China said Friday a female astronaut will be among the three-person team on board the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which will launch on Saturday, 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.

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