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Friday, 15 June 2012

China will launch three astronauts, including a woman on Saturday

The very latest on Saturday's launch of the historic Shenzhou-9 space mission. Both the crew and the launch time have been announced by a spokesman for China’s manned space program.

The Shenzhou-9 spaceship will be launched at 18:37 Beijing time on Saturday June 16th. The crew will consist of PLA astronauts Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, and the first ever Chinese female astronaut, Liu Yang.

Astronaut Jing Haipeng.
The Shenzhou-9 is due to perform China’s first ever manned space docking mission with the Tiangong-1 orbiting module. It will be launched on board China’s Long March 2F rocket carrier.

All preparations have been completed at the launch site, and all systems are ready for the launch. The astronauts are said to be in good condition and are doing their final preparation work. The Shenzhou-9 mission headquarters is due to hold a press conference this afternoon, with the crew members due to meet the press. We’ll bring you full coverage of that as it happens.

Astronaut Liu Wang.

Astronaut Liu Yang. 
Liu Yang, China's first woman astronaut waves as she leaves after attending a meet the press event at the Jiuquan satellite launch center near Jiuquan in western China's Gansu province, Friday, June 15, 2012. (AP / Ng Han Guan)
Liu Yang, China's first woman astronaut waves as she leaves after attending a meet the press event at the Jiuquan satellite launch center near Jiuquan in western China's Gansu province, Friday, June 15, 2012. (AP / Ng Han Guan)

China's first female astronaut meets media

China's astronauts Jing Haipeng (C), Liu Wang (R) and Liu Yang meet with media in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, June 15, 2012. The three astronauts will board Shenzhou-9 spacecraft on Saturday to fulfill China's first manned space docking mission. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
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JIUQUAN, June 15 (Xinhua) -- China's first female astronaut Liu Yang, together with her two male crew mates Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, met the media on Friday.

The three astronauts will board the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft on Saturday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China to fulfill China's first manned space docking mission.

"I am grateful to the motherland and the people. I feel honored to fly into the space on behalf of hundreds of millions of female Chinese citizens," said Liu Yang.

She said that to be an astronaut, one has to obtain a lot of theoretical knowledge, go through very challenging space living environment training and survive examinations on operation skills with no error.

"The sense of mission and responsibility as well as the passion for aerospace undertakings are the source of courage to overcome difficulties," she said.

"When I was a pilot, I flew in the sky. Now I am an astronaut, I will fly in the space. That will be a higher and farther flight," Liu said.

She said many tasks have been arranged for this space trip. "Aside from fulfilling the tasks, I want to experience the fantastic environment in space and appreciate the beautiful Earth and our homeland from the space."

She said she will keep a detailed record of her feelings and experiences and share with scientists and future astronauts when she comes back. She also expressed her gratefulness to all the people.

"I will live up to your expectations and work with my teammates to fulfil this space mission," she said.

All three crew members are former pilots of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). They are all members of the Communist Party of China.

Enlisted in the army in 1997, Liu 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 into China's second batch of prospective astronauts in May 2010. She is now an air force major.

After two years of training that has 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 to crew the Shenzhou-9.

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China to send its first woman into space
June 15, 2012 by NG HAN GUAN, PHYS.COM
China said Friday a female astronaut will be among the three-person team on board the Shenzhou-9 spacecraftEnlarge

File photo of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force women fighter pilots at a PLA base in Beijing. China said Friday a female astronaut will be among the three-person team on board the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which will launch on Saturday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

(AP) — China will launch three astronauts, including a mother of one who flies transport planes, to live and work on a space station for about a week, a major step in its goal of becoming only the third nation with a permanent base orbiting Earth.

Liu Yang, a 34-year-old, volleyball-playing air force pilot, and two male colleagues are expected to be launched Saturday in the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft that will dock with the bus-sized Tiangong 1 space module now orbiting 322 kilometers (200 miles) above the Earth.

Two of the astronauts will live and work inside the module to test its life-support systems while the third will remain in the capsule to deal with unexpected emergencies. State media have said the mission will last about 10 days before the astronauts travel back to Earth in the capsule that will land on the Western Chinese grasslands with the help of parachutes.

Success in docking — and in living and working aboard the Tiangong 1 — would smooth the way for more ambitious projects, such as sending a man to the moon, and add to China's international prestige in line with its growing economic prowess.

If completed, the mission will put China alongside the United States and Russia as the only countries to have independently maintained space stations, a huge boost to Beijing's ambitions of becoming a space power. It already is in the exclusive three-nation club to have launched a spacecraft with astronauts on its own.

The mission "demonstrates China's commitment to its long-term human spaceflight plan," said Joan Johnson-Freese, an expert on the Chinese space program at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island.
She said its success "will demonstrate the technological capabilities requisite for a future permanent space station."

Still, that is some years away. The Tiangong 1 is only a prototype, and the plan is to eventually replace it with a permanent — and bigger — space station due for completion around 2020.

The permanent station will weigh about 60 tons, slightly smaller than NASA's Skylab and about one-sixth the size of the 16-nation International Space Station.

Analysts say China's exclusion from the ISS, largely on objections from the United States, was one of the key spurs for it to pursue an independent program 20 years ago, which reaches a high point with Saturday's launch.

The three astronauts will conduct scientific and engineering tasks on Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, which was put into orbit in September.

Morris Jones, an Australian writer and space analyst, said they will also conduct experiments, likely including physiological tests on themselves, in anticipation of longer stays in future.

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.

While operating with limited resources, China's space program is a source of huge national pride and enjoys top-level political and military backing. This has left it largely immune from the budgetary pressures affecting NASA, although China doesn't say what it spends on the program.

The selection of the first female astronaut is giving the program an additional publicity boost. State media have gushed this week about Liu, pointing out that she once successfully landed her plane after a bird strike disabled one of its engines.

As with China's other female astronaut candidates, Liu is married and has a child, a requirement because the space program worries that exposure to space radiation may affect fertility.

The Associated Press.  
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