China sends its first woman astronaut into space

Published: June 16, 2012
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Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (R), Liu Wang (C) and Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, wave as they leave for the launch tower during a departure ceremony at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province June 16, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (R), Liu Wang (C) and Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, wave as they leave for the launch tower during a departure ceremony at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province June 16, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Long March II-F rocket loaded with Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft carrying Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang flies over the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province June 16, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (R), Liu Wang (C) and Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, wave as they leave for the launch tower during a departure ceremony at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province June 16, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS

JIUQUAN, CHINA: China put its first woman into orbit on Saturday, one of three astronauts to attempt a critical space docking in the latest challenge for the country’s ambitious space programme.

A Long March rocket blasted off in the early evening from the remote Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwestern Gobi Desert, carrying with it the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft and the three astronauts, including 33-year-old female fighter pilot Liu Yang.

This is China’s fourth manned space mission since 2003 when astronaut Yang Liwei became the country’s first person in orbit, and comes as the United States has curtailed manned launches over budget concerns and changing priorities.

The launch was carried live on state television, and until moments before blast-off, a camera showed the three astronauts in the cabin occasionally waving. A red placard with the Chinese symbol for good fortune hung behind them.

Within days, the astronauts will try to dock with the orbiting Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1 module launched last September, part of a 13-day mission crucial to China’s ambition to put a space station in orbit around 2020.

“I believe that we can achieve this goal, because we already have the basic technological capability,” Zhou Jianping, the chief designer of China’s manned space engineering project, told reporters before the launch.

A successful manned docking mission for China would be the latest show of the country’s growing capabilities in space, to match its expanding military and diplomatic clout.

Still, Beijing is playing catch up with the United States and Russia, which, along with other countries, jointly operate the International Space Station some 240 miles above Earth.

Rendezvous and docking techniques such as those which China is only testing now were mastered by the United States and the former Soviet Union decades ago, and the 10.5 meter-long Tiangong 1 is a trial module, not a full-fledged space station.

Linking with the unmanned module will be an important hurdle in China’s efforts to acquire the technological and logistical skills needed to run a full space lab that can house astronauts for long stretches.

Fears of a space arms race with the United States and other powers mounted after China blew up one of its own weather satellites with a ground-based missile in January 2007, though China has insisted its programme is peaceful.

“China’s manned space programme has never been for military purposes. It is mainly to research how mankind can go into space, use space peacefully,” He Yu, the general commander of China’s manned spacecraft project, said before the launch.

The United States will not test a new rocket to take people into space until 2017, and Russia has said manned missions are no longer a priority.

But NASA has begun investing in US firms to provide commercial spaceflight services and is spending about $3 billion a year on a new rocket and capsule to send astronauts to the moon, asteroids and eventually to Mars.

Chinese scientists have talked of the possibility of sending a man to the moon after 2020, the final step in a three-stage moon plan, which includes the deployment of a moon rover in 2013 and the retrieval of lunar soil and stone samples around 2017.

China’s space programme has come a long way since late leader Mao Zedong, founder of Communist China in 1949, lamented that the country could not even launch a potato into space.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Aka
    Jun 16, 2012 - 7:29PM

    Next vil be india..cum on india u can do it.

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  • dude
    Jun 16, 2012 - 8:10PM

    well done china. i want such achievement from India

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  • Shyam
    Jun 16, 2012 - 9:22PM

    Arab countries do not allow women to operate an automobile, while US, China and Russia lets women operate spacecrafts.

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  • Ordinary Villager
    Jun 16, 2012 - 9:33PM

    Pakistan will do it in next 100 years. At present we want to set foot in Waziristan and in Tribal regions of Pakistan which are like a Moon or a Space for the most of Pakistanis. Anyway Pakistan have suspended its Space Launch Vehicle Program ( SLV ) thanks to PPP who ordered to close this program citing lack of funding and now we can only clap at the Success of others as our Government have rendered our R&D programs useless and closed our Vital programs for Space Research.

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  • Fighter
    Jun 17, 2012 - 7:23AM

    Congratulations to china! This is the result of joint research between pakistan and china! pretty soon together we will march deeper into space and leave usa behind.

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  • Ahmer Ali
    Jun 17, 2012 - 11:45AM

    Great China do so more and more and defeat USA and other advanced Western countries who think that the others can’t do what we can do????

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  • greg
    Jun 17, 2012 - 7:25PM

    @Fighter:

    This is the result of joint research
    between pakistan and china!

    what? can you explain how pakistan here?

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  • Journalist
    Jun 17, 2012 - 7:52PM

    Gr8… i am proud to have a friend like China,,doesnt matter its not me,, but at least its my friend..congrtx :)
    And for Indians, leave it, lets have gupshup over siachin, sirkreek, afghanistan, kashmir, bhasha, cruuzz, prithvi, ghaznawi, ambali, ghauri, ak47, g3, g4 and the most importnt The Vina Malik,

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  • blaze
    Jun 17, 2012 - 11:55PM

    @Fighter:
    Haahaahaaaa…Luved your sense of humour dude!!

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  • Ahmer Ali
    Jun 18, 2012 - 9:54AM

    @Fighter:
    Please correct yourself here on your this stance because this is purely and indigenous China’s effort because China is a sovereign,prosperous,well-being and economically strong than Pakistan country and doesn’t need any logistic and economic supports from Pakistan and Pakistan is not involved in this greatest China’s achievement and please you must know that Pakistan itself is preparing/scheduling a program with China’s co-operation to launch its first satellite’s system.

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