Shenzhou-IX launch could be on Saturday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am


The earliest China would be able to launch its Shenzhou-IX manned spacecraft would be Saturday, mainland media reported yesterday while giving information about the two female candidates vying for the mission.

The City Express, based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, quoted an unidentified person involved in the mission as saying that the launch window could open on Saturday.

The Shenzhen-IX spacecraft and its carrier rocket have already been moved to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Inner Mongolia in the northwest.

China has made steady progress with its space programme since 2003, when it became the third nation in the world to send humans into space, after Russia and the United States. Two more manned missions followed, one including a space walk. Officials previously said the Shenzhou-IX mission would involve three astronauts manually docking with the Tiangong-1 space module, which was launched on September 29 and is orbiting earth.

The report yesterday quoted Qi Faran, chief designer for Chinese spacecraft, as saying that one of the three astronauts on the Shenzhou-IX would be a woman.

Qi said two female candidates were undergoing training.

Mainland media reported that either Liu Yang or Wang Yaping, both 34, would be selected for the job.

The reports said that both Liu and Wang were mentally capable and had passed many tests, and that they had received advanced piloting training. Liu, who graduated from an aviation college in Changchun, Jilin province, is known for being tough. She did not let her parents visit her during her four years at the college.

And when she made her first skydive, she did not immediately call her family to tell them she was safe. Her parents broke down in tears when Liu finally called them, with her father telling her: 'It's good that you are safe.'

Wang, whose husband is also a pilot, had no intention of becoming a pilot when she was young, but she changed her mind after being persuaded by a friend to try aviation college. She registered the top scores in the aviation theory examination for two consecutive years.