Skip to main content

China prepares for launch, names female astronaut

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 15, 2012 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force fighter pilot Liu Yang, as seen in March 2010, will be China's first woman in space.
People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force fighter pilot Liu Yang, as seen in March 2010, will be China's first woman in space.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Liu Yang wins coveted spot to be China's first woman in space
  • Launch time is set for 6:37 p.m. local time in northwest Gansu's province
  • China aims to be third nation to perform a space docking
  • China aspires to build a space station and conduct manned mission to the moon

(CNN) -- China will launch its historic space docking mission Saturday along with its first female astronaut in space.

Liu Yang has been selected to join two male astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, as part of a three-person crew aboard the Shenzhou-9, according to China's manned space docking program, which says the mission will last 10 days.

A launch time is set for 6:37 p.m. local time (6:37 a.m. ET) at a satellite center in northwestern Gansu province.

The carrier rocket, the Long March-2F, was scheduled to start fueling Friday afternoon, and the launch ground and control systems are ready, state media reported.

Echoing a famous Chinese proverb, Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for China's manned space program said, "Women hold up half the sky. Human space missions without women are incomplete."

Chinese women push for a place in space

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its carrier rocket as seen Saturday in northwest China\'s Gansu province.
The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its carrier rocket as seen Saturday in northwest China's Gansu province.

According to Xinhua, Liu, 33, was the deputy head of a flight unit of the PLA's Air Force and an air force major. She is also a veteran pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience and, after two years of training, excelled in testing before being selected with another female, Wang Yaping, as a candidate for the crew.

On the eve of the mission, however, it was Liu who won the coveted spot.

Wu said that the participation of women in space will aid training, improve flight crew equipment and expand knowledge on the physical and psychological effects of space on women. "It will also further expand the social impact of human space missions and showcase the positive image of Chinese women," Wu said. "As a woman, I am eagerly looking forward to this flight with a female astronaut."

As a woman, I am eagerly looking forward to this flight with a female astronaut
Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for China's manned space program

In another milestone, Jing will be China's first astronaut to travel twice into space, Xinhua reported. Like his other two crewmembers, Jing is a former pilot of the People's Liberation Army and a member of the Communist Party of China, according to Xinhua.

If all goes well, the Shenzhou-9 will dock with China's orbiting space laboratory, making the nation the third after the United States and Russia to complete a manned space docking.

As a precaution in case of an emergency, one of the crewmembers will not board the lab, the space program said in February.

China to launch major space mission

China has big aspirations for its program and hopes to build a space station and conduct a manned mission to the moon.

Read about China's space plans

The orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module was launched into space in September, and two months later it successfully completed China's first space docking with an unmanned spacecraft, Shenzhou-8, according to Xinhua news agency.

The efforts demonstrate "China's continued commitment to becoming a first-class space power with an independent space capability," Taylor Fravel, associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said this year. "This is a very exclusive club."

China's efforts come as the United States refocuses its space program toward deep space exploration, and private companies such as SpaceX make strides toward the commercialization of spaceflight.

Last month, SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule completed the first commercial mission to the International Space Station.

CNN's Steven Jiang and Jaime FlorCruz contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0631 GMT (1431 HKT)
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0414 GMT (1214 HKT)
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 0437 GMT (1237 HKT)
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0656 GMT (1456 HKT)
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0836 GMT (1636 HKT)
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0334 GMT (1134 HKT)
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
June 19, 2014 -- Updated 0638 GMT (1438 HKT)
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 0812 GMT (1612 HKT)
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
June 11, 2014 -- Updated 0013 GMT (0813 HKT)
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT