China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, powered by a Long March 2F rocket, was shown live on state television from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert in western China. On board was a 33-year-old air force pilot named Liu Yang. “From day one I have been told I am no different from the male astronauts,” Liu, a trained fighter pilot who is married but has no children, told the state broadcaster CCTV in an interview broadcast after Friday’s announcement.
“This is an important leap forward for China’s manned space program,” said Wu Bangguo, the China’s top legislator.
The Astronauts will attempt to manually dock the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft to the orbiting Tiangong 1 space module. The docking will represent an important milestone, and the accomplishment of a key capability, on the Chinese roadmap towards establishing Space Station towards the end of the decade.
They are expected to spend about 20 days in space. The mission to dock with the Tiangong-1 module currently orbiting Earth is the latest step in a plan aimed at giving the country a permanent space station in which a crew can live independently for several months by 2020.