A Chinese woman astronaut could be on board China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft when it blasts off to space within a week’s time, a first for the country’s space program that plans to have a permanent space station by 2020.
There are two female astronauts being considered for the flight, which is expected to lift off on Saturday.
Both women began their careers as transport pilots with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force — Captain Wang Yaping, 33, was born in Shandong Province, and Major Liu Yang, who is either 33 or 34, comes from Henan.
However, it is still not clear which woman will board the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft docking mission.
They are selected as members of the first batch of female astronauts in China because of their excellent flight skills and psychological quality, Xinhua reported.
Chinese media described major Liu Yang as a veritable hero, after managing a successful emergency landing after a dramatic birdstrike incident spattered the windshield of her plane with blood.
On the other hand, her rival, Captain Wang Yaping has flown rescue missions during the Sichuan earthquake and piloted a cloud-seeding plane to help clear the skies of rain for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
They are selected from 15 women who must be married and have given birth naturally, according to Space International magazine of the China Academy of Space Technology. They also must have no scars or body odor.
Despite the module being only 15 cubic meters inside, the female astronaut will have a separate toilet and bedroom that is soundproof to protect her privacy, Pang Zhihao, a researcher with the China Academy of Space Technology, said yesterday.
The former Soviet Union sent the world's first female astronaut, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, into space in 1963.