China sends its first woman astronaut into space

China on Saturday launched its most ambitious space mission to date, sending its first female astronaut into orbit and bidding to achieve the country's first manual space docking.

Shenzhou-9 -- China's fourth manned space mission -- blasted off on schedule at 6:37 pm (1037 GMT) from the remote Gobi desert in the nation's northwest, state television pictures showed.

Chang Wanquan, commander-in-chief of China's manned space programme, said the craft had entered orbit, and declared the launch a "complete success".

The crew was headed by Jing Haipeng, a veteran astronaut who had gone to space twice already. Liu Wang, who has been in the space programme for 14 years, will be in charge of manual docking manoeuvres.

Meanwhile Liu Yang, 33, who has created a stir in the media and online for becoming China's first woman to travel to space, will conduct aerospace medical experiments and other space tests.

In a nod to the symbolic significance of Liu's presence, one of the country's most senior female leaders, State Councillor Liu Yandong, read a message of congratulation from President Hu Jintao from the launch site.

"I would like to extend warm congratulations and sincere regards to all those participating," said Hu, adding the docking operation would mark a "major breakthrough in the country's manned space programme".

The mission will last 13 days, during which the crew will perform experiments and the manual space docking -- a highly technical procedure that brings two vessels together in high speed orbit.

Successful completion of the rendezvous between the Shenzhou-9 ("Divine Vessel") and the Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace") module already in orbit will take China a step closer to setting up its own space station in 2020.

The Asian powerhouse achieved a similar docking in November last year, but that mission was unmanned and the procedure was conducted remotely from Earth.

"The manual space rendezvous... is a huge test for astronauts' ability to judge spatial position, eye-hand coordination and psychological abilities," Jing told reporters ahead of the launch.

He added that the trio would work well together after months of intense training that saw them rehearse the mission some 16 hours a day.

"One glance, one facial expression, one movement... we understand each other thoroughly," he said.

The team have rehearsed the procedure more than 1,500 times in simulations, Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China's manned space programme, told reporters.

But more than the upcoming challenge, it is the inclusion in the crew of Liu Yang -- a trained pilot and major in the People's Liberation Army who began astronaut training two years ago -- that has captivated China's people.

China sent its first person into space in 2003 and has since conducted several manned missions, the latest in 2008, but had never yet included a woman.

Liu's mission made China the third country after the Soviet Union and United States to send a woman into space using its own technology.

China sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

An editorial in the state-run Global Times newspaper on Saturday said that China needed to "cement its strategic gains made during the years," which called for "a stronger presence in outer space".

"The three astronauts aboard Shenzhou-9 personify China's long-term space aspirations," it added.

A white paper released last December outlined China's long-term ambitions to "conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing".

The current programme aims to provide China with a space station in which a crew can live independently for several months, as at the old Russian Mir facility or the International Space Station.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • First China air force drills in 'far offshore' Pacific
    First China air force drills in 'far offshore' Pacific

    China's air force has carried out its first ever military drill over the western Pacific Ocean, state media said, highlighting Beijing's growing military reach. Several aircraft from China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday flew over the ocean via the Bashi Channel, which runs between Taiwan and the Philippines, the official Xinhua news agency said. "This is the first time that the PLA Air Force conducted such drills in an airspace far offshore from Chinese coastlines," Xinhua cited …

  • Shorter hours for rail lines tomorrow
    Shorter hours for rail lines tomorrow

    The Metro Rail Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will have shorter hours tomorrow for the replacement of defective railroad tracks during the Holy Week. …

  • Noy increases allowances for cops, soldiers
    Noy increases allowances for cops, soldiers

    President Aquino has signed a joint congressional resolution raising the daily subsistence allowance for both members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino signed last March 27 the merged Joint Resolution 2 of the Senate and Joint Resolution 26 of the House of Representatives. Speaking to reporters, Lacierda yesterday said the daily allowances of police officers and soldiers were raised from P90 …

  • Oil firms raise gas prices today
    Oil firms raise gas prices today

    This year’s Holy Week break will be accompanied by an increase in local pump prices after oil companies announced yesterday a P1.10 per liter hike for gasoline and P0.60 per liter for diesel effective today. “Phoenix Petroleum Philippines will increase the prices of gasoline by P1.10 per liter and diesel by P0.60 per liter effective 6 a.m. of March 31, 2015 to reflect the movements in the prices of refined petroleum products in the international market,” said Phoenix Petroleum, an independent …

  • DFA denies dropping Phl claim to Sabah
    DFA denies dropping Phl claim to Sabah

    The Philippines has never offered to drop its Sabah claim in exchange for Malaysia’s support for Manila’s arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea issue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday. “In the context of our friendly bilateral relations, our two countries have been for years exchanging ways on how to address the issue of the extended continental shelf (ECS) in the South China Sea,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in explaining the DFA’s …

  • Pagcor remits record high P5 B to national treasury
    Pagcor remits record high P5 B to national treasury

    The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has remitted P5 billion in cash dividends to the National Treasury, fully settling all its arrears incurred in the last several years. Pagcor chairman and chief executive officer Cristino Naguiat Jr. said with this year’s remittance, the state-owned gaming firm has fully settled all remaining arrears in cash dividends that were incurred by the previous administration since 2005. Pagcor’s cash dividends to the National Treasury under its …

  • Maysak moves closer to Phl
    Maysak moves closer to Phl

    The typhoon with international name Maysak slightly accelerated as it moved closer to the Philippines yesterday, threatening to dump rains over eastern Luzon this weekend, the state weather bureau said. Rene Paciente, senior weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said Maysak was spotted at 2,175 kilometers east of Mindanao as of 1 p.m. yesterday. Paciente said based on their latest forecast, Maysak is likely to affect …

  • Phl gets P2-B climate projects from Germany
    Phl gets P2-B climate projects from Germany

    The Philippines is getting 41 million euros or around P2 billion from the International Climate Initiative (ICI) of Germany that will fund 10 bilateral projects to address the impact of climate change. Climate Change Commission (CCC) vice chairman Lucille Sering yesterday met with Norbert Gorissen – head of the International Climate Finance of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety – to discuss the projects, some of which will be …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options