I recently told you a few days ago China was planning its first ever space docking, and one of the astronauts will definitely be a woman – first they nailed it down to two, but now, Chinese officials have made their decision: Liu Yang will be their first female astronaut ever!
Liu will be one of three astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft when it blasts off tomorrow ahead of the country’s first manned orbital docking with the Tiangong-1 – the “heavenly palace”. Tomorrow’s launch puts China even closer to their goal of maintaining a permanent manned space station and putting a person on the moon by 2020.
“I am grateful to the motherland and the people,” Liu told a media briefing today, according to Xinhua. “I feel honored to fly into space on behalf of hundreds of millions of female Chinese citizens.”
In China, Liu Yang is a hero pilot, the newspapers reporting how she “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.”
In China, people able of dealing with emergencies are almost always chosen for important missions. Xinhua reported that Liu has 1,680 hours of flying time and is the deputy head of a flight unit of the PLA’s Air Force. She was recruited to be a potential astronaut in 2010.