July 9, 2009

China Sending First Female Astronaut Into Space By 2012

China is planning to send its first woman into space as early as 2012, the state media announced on Thursday.

Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut, joined the program in 2003 and is now responsible for finding new recruits for their space program.

"I believe Chinese women will soon be seen in space," said Yang during a webchat.

Sui Guosheng, a recruitment officer with the Chinese Air Force, said the female astronaut is expected to go into space in 2012.

The potential female astronauts would be pulled from the 16 female fighter pilots who finished their training in April, Sui said to Nanfang Weekly.

The pilots, chosen from 150,000 graduates of high school, were the first group of Chinese women skilled enough to fly the jets, the report noted.

China was the third nation to send a man in space when Yang lead the Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003, which was part of the country's increasing space objectives.

The Chang'e-1 probe was sent into space in 2007 and is the first part of China's lunar agenda, which includes sending an unmanned rover to the moon's surface by 2012 and also sending a manned mission there by 2020.

The world's very first female astronaut was the Soviet Union's Valentina Tereshkova, who was sent into space for three days in 1963.