China will launch its Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft at 6:37 p.m. Saturday, sending the country’s first female astronaut into space, a spokeswoman said Friday.
Three astronauts, two male and one female, will travel aboard the spacecraft to complete the country’s first manual space docking test, said Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China’s manned space program, at a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
The astronauts are Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang, who is female, the spokeswoman said.
CHINA’S FIRST WOMAN IN SPACE
Liu Yang, 33, is a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force major. She was a veteran pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience and the deputy head of a flight unit of the PLA’s Air Force before being recruited as a potential astronaut in May 2010.
After two years of training, which shored up her astronautic skills and adaptability to the space environment, Liu excelled in testing and was selected in March this year as a candidate for the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft mission.
“Generally speaking, female astronauts have better durability, psychological stability and ability to deal with loneliness,” Wu said.
More than 50 female astronauts from seven countries have gone into space to date. The longest space flight by a female astronaut lasted 188 days.
All countries that have completed manned space missions have attached great significance to their respective first female astronauts’ maiden space flights, Wu said, citing the former Soviet Union’s first female astronaut Valentina Tereshkova and Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman in space.
Since this mission marks the first time for China to send a female astronaut into space, the training, medical monitoring, security and equipment designated for female astronauts will also be tested for the first time, Wu said.
Jing, 46, was one of three crew members aboard the Shenzhou-7 in 2008. He will serve as the commander of the Shenzhou-9′s crew and become the first Chinese astronaut to travel into space twice.
Liu Wang, 43, also a former pilot, was selected to be trained as an astronaut in January 1998.