One of two female fighter pilots will become the first Chinese woman in space later this month, after the two were shortlisted for a place in the three-person team that will blast off in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, the state news agency Xinhua said.
“They are selected as members of the first batch of female astronauts in China because of their excellent flight skills and psychological quality,” said Xinhua.
This month’s mission is regarded as an important stage in China’s ambitious space programme. “The Shenzhou-9 will perform our country’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module,” Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the manned space program, told state media.
“It means China’s spacecraft will become a genuine manned shuttle tool between space and Earth. It can send human beings to space stations or space labs. This will be a significant step in China’s manned space flight history.”
China will be the eighth country to see one of its female citizens go into space, and only the third to put one there itself. Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman to go into space in 1963.
ZME Science reports: Both ladies are over 30 and both have a child. China’s policy is that space travel may affect fertility, hence their selection for the programme. Space Daily has studied the blogs on the topic noting:
“Wang Yaping had been the Chinese media favourite to make the flight for many months, but some sources have been championing Liu’s cause recently, so it is impossible to make any evidence based judgement, on who is more likely to make the flight. Assuming that Shenzhou 9 launches successfully on Saturday, a manual docking with Tiangong 1 will follow after two days, ahead of a ten day stay onboard the orbiting module.”
Other crew members include: Nie Haisheng (Commander), Zhang Xiaoguang and Jing Haipeng (Commander), Liu Wang.
Bulk News Source: Guardian.Co.UK.