China’s first woman in space
The Guizhou Economic Times today features a picture of a spaceship and two would-be astronauts, one of whom will become China’s first woman in space later this week. In the afternoon of Saturday, June 16, China will launch the Shenzhou No. 9 spacecraft to carry out the country’s first manned space docking. The headline reads, “China’s first female astronaut will be one of these two women.”
The article provides profiles on each woman: Liu Yang, born in Henan province, is 34 years old and an excellent pilot. The article describes how she once landed a plane successfully after it had crashed into 18 carrier pigeons, and two had got stuck in the plane’s air channel. Had she not handled this situation properly, the consequences might have been disastrous. The second woman, Wang Yaping, is also 34, and from Shandong province. She also has a strong flying record.
The mission they are now competing to take part in will be China’s first manned space flight since 2008. If chosen, they will be one of a team of three astronauts to take the Shenzhou No. 9 into space and land it manually. The article says these women have been chosen for their excellent flying skills and superior mental qualities. The manned space docking represents a significant step for China’s space program, says Zhou Jianping, the chief designer of China’s manned spaceflights. It is a prerequisite to setting up a national space station or space laboratory. During their 10 to 20 days in space, the astronauts on this mission will carry out further reconnaissance and experiments aimed at establishing a Chinese space laboratory.
Chinese astronauts are often called “taikonauts”, a term derived from a combination of the Chinese word, “taikong” (太空 space) and the Greek, “naut,” (traveler). According to a recent article in The Guardian, China’s selection process for its first woman taikonaut has been rigorous, and includes requirements such as having given birth, and having good breath.
Links and Sources
Guizhou Economic Times: 中国首位女航天员 她俩二选一
New York Times: No fanfare for China’s female astronauts
The Guardian: China picks mothers for astronaut training
NY daily news: China plans manned space launch this month
Collect Space: China’s plans to launch a woman taikonaut