China Launching First Woman Into Space Saturday
June 15, 2012

China Launching First Woman Into Space Saturday

Lee Rannals for

China will be extending its feats on Saturday as it launches its first woman into space aboard its Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.

A spokeswoman for the country's space program said Liu Yang, a 33-year-old major in the People's Liberation Army, will take part in China's fourth manned space launch.

"From day one I have been told I am no different from the male astronauts," Liu, a trained fighter pilot who is married but has no children, told the state broadcaster CCTV in an interview broadcast after Friday's announcement.

"I believe in persevering. If you persevere, success lies ahead of you," added Liu, who was interviewed wearing her blue astronaut's uniform.

She joined the astronaut training program in May 2010, and was selected as a possible candidate for Saturday's mission after she excelled in testing, according to a report by Xinhua news agency.

Lui initially trained as a cargo pilot and has be heralded for having good handling during an incident when her jet hit a flock of pigeons and was still able to safely land the damaged aircraft.

She, along with mission commander Jing Haipeng, 45, and Liu Wang, 43, will launch from the Jiuquan space base in north China's Gobi desert on Saturday morning.

The astronauts will perform China's first manned space docking, which the astronauts said was a "huge test" they have rehearsed over 1,500 times.

"The three of us understand each other tacitly. One glance, one facial expression, one movement, we understand each other thoroughly," Jing told reporters.

They will be docking with the Tiangong-1 module, which is currently orbiting the Earth and is the first piece of the country's future space station.

Liu's mission will make China the third county after the Soviet Union and United States to send a woman into space using its own technology.

Xinhua said the three astronauts' physical state would be carefully monitored during the mission to obtain data about the effects of a human body in zero gravity.

The astronauts will be bringing with them equipment like a bicycle ergometer, chest developer and neuromuscular electrical stimulation on board to protect the astronauts against weightlessness and maintain their cardiac and muscular functions, according to the Xinhua news agency.

"The measures are designed to combat the negative influence of the gravity-free environment of space and ensure the astronauts' health, as the mission will last for 13 days," said the spokeswoman, Wu Ping, at a televised press conference.

She spokeswoman said Wu will be receiving particular protections in medical examinations, and exercises, to study the effects of zero gravity on the female physical condition.