June 16, 2012
China Launches First Female Astronaut To Space
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
China embraced another milestone on Saturday morning as it launched its first female astronaut into space.Female astronaut Liu Yang, 33, along with two male astronauts, lifted off aboard the Shenzhou 9 capsule from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert.
Everything worked like a charm as the spacecraft opened up its solar panels and entered into orbit just moments after liftoff.
The crew will be docking with a Chinese space module that launched last year, which is the first piece of the puzzle to the nation's own space station.
Two of the astronauts will live and work inside the Tiangong 1 module, while the other stays inside the capsule to deal with unexpected emergencies. China's space agency plans to finish up its permanent space station sometime around 2020.
The planned station will weigh about 60 tons and will be smaller than the International Space Station currently in orbit.
China is just one of three nations to have launched a manned spacecraft on their own. The country is planning another manned mission to the module later this year.
The nation first launched a man into space in 2003, followed by a two-man mission in 2005 and a three-man launch in 2008.
The Shenzhou 8 docked twice with the Tiangong 1 during an unmanned mission back in November 2011.
Yang, China's first female astronaut, told reporters on Friday: "We won't let you down. We will work together and successfully complete this mission."