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.

  • Filipino, Vietnamese troops play games on Spratly island

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Filipino and Vietnamese troops played football and tug-of-war Wednesday to foster camaraderie at a Philippine-held island in the South China Sea, where territorial rifts have escalated following China's island-building activities. …

  • Philippine, Vietnamese troops play soccer and sing on disputed island

    By Manuel Mogato MANILA (Reuters) - Vietnamese and Philippine troops played soccer and sang karaoke on a South China Sea island on Wednesday in a sign of the growing security ties between the two Southeast Asian nations most at odds with Beijing over the contested waterway. Cooperation has blossomed between Hanoi and Manila since they shelved decades of enmity over their competing claims in the Spratly archipelago to try to counter China, whose creation of artificial islands in the region …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Fall on renewed U.S. rate hike concerns

    BANGKOK, May 27 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets tumbled on Wednesday as investors resumed selling on expectations of an interest rate hike in the U.S. sooner rather than later, derailing Philippine ... …

  • Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute
    Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute

    As US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan began its journey to Asian waters amid China’s power flexing in the region, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin would try to hear directly from his US counterpart how far America is willing to go to aid its long-time ally against China’s threatening moves in disputed waters. Gazmin flew to Hawaii last Monday to attend ceremonies for the turnover of leadership of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) from Admiral Samuel Locklear to Admiral Harry …

  • Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level
    Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level

    The water level of Angat Dam in Bulacan yesterday fell below the 180-meter critical level for irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said. PAGASA said the dam’s water level further dropped to 179.98 meters as of 6 a.m. yesterday from 180.2 meters on Monday. The priority is the domestic consumption in Metro Manila, according to PAGASA. …

  • PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid
    PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid

    The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) reported yesterday that an estimated P3-billion charity fund has been allocated by Congress to the agency to provide medical assistance to indigent patients and also give funds to other government offices including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Crop Insurance Program. …

  • Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila
    Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a demolition crew begins to tear down a squatters' community at suburban Caloocan city, north of Manila, Philippines. Population growth and the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas have driven millions of Filipinos into the squatters' colonies that dot the sprawling metropolitan area in and around Manila. Most of the land they occupy is privately owned, and clearing the dwellings often results in violence. The landowner had offered about $1,344 in …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Mostly down; Thai shares near 2-week low

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most sharemarkets in Southeast Asia fell on Tuesday with the Thai index ending at a near two-week low and the Philippines touching a near four-week low after trade data while ... …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options