China prepares to send first woman astronaut into space
1. China will send its first woman into space on Saturday along with two other astronauts to work on a temporary space station for about a week, in a key step toward becoming the only third nation to set up a permanent base in orbit. Liu Yang, a 34-year-old air force pilot, and two male colleagues will be launched aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which will dock with the bus-sized Tiangong 1 space module now orbiting at 343 kilometres (213 miles) above the Earth.
2. China is hoping to join the United States and Russia as the only countries to have sent independently maintained space stations into orbit. It already is in the exclusive three-nation club to have launched a spacecraft with astronauts on its own.
3. Chinese state media have touted Liu’s accomplishments over the last week. Under the headline “Female astronaut was a hero pilot,” the state-run China Daily newspaper reported how she had “successfully dealt with a mid-air emergency” after her plane hit 18 pigeons, splattering the windshield with blood and filling the cockpit with a “burning smell.”
4. Selection requirements demand that the female astronaut be married and have given birth, according to a story in the newspaper of the Shaanxi Province Communist Party committee. She also must have no scars, bad breath or tooth decay, the China Daily newspaper said.
5. She and her two male colleagues – mission commander Jing Haipeng, 45, and Liu Wang, 43 – will take off at 6.37 pm (1037 GMT) from the Jiuquan space base in north China’s Gobi desert.
6. The mission to dock with the Tiangong-1 module currently orbiting Earth is the latest step in a plan aimed at giving the country a permanent space station in which a crew can live independently for several months by 2020.
7. China first launched a man into space in 2003 followed by a two-man mission in 2005 and a three-man trip in 2008 that featured China’s first space walk. In November 2011, the unmanned Shenzhou 8 successfully docked with the Tiangong 1 by remote control – twice to show the durability of the system.
8. China sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
9. 7 June 2012: The spacecraft is installed on its carrier rocket, the Long March-2F, at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre
10. A Long March 2F rocket carrying Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft stands at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on June 9, 2012