Woman astronaut a giant leap for China
CHINA’S LIU Yang has taken a considerable step forward for her country’s space programme, as a module carrying the country’s first woman in space and her two colleagues successfully docked with an orbiting spacecraft.
Ms Liu (33), a Chinese air force pilot, has boldly gone where no Chinese woman has gone before in the Shenzhou-9 capsule, along with mission commander and veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng (45) and Liu Wang (43).
Millions watched on live television in China as the capsule docked with the Tiangong-1 module shortly after 2pm local time, 343km above Earth.
This is the first time a manned Chinese space flight has carried out the docking.
The crew will live on the module for 10 days, carrying out tasks such as medical tests and experiments as part of preparations for manning a permanent space station.
The docking is considered a big advance for China’s manned space programme’s efforts to build a permanent space station by 2020.
China wants to join the US and Russia as the only countries to send independently maintained space stations into orbit. It is already one of just three nations to have launched manned spacecraft on their own.
It has gone it alone in space because it has always been refused permission to join the 16-country International Space Programme, mostly because the United States worries about military secrets passing to China.
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 the country’s first space walk.