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China to send its first female astronaut into orbit (+video)

The crew of China's Shenzhou 9 space docking mission to its prototype space station includes Liu Yang, the country's first woman to fly in space.

Chinese space museum officials talk about the upcoming launch of a Chinese spacecraft that will take the first Chinese woman into space.
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China has unveiled the three-person crew  for its first manned docking spaceflight set to launch Saturday (June 16) — a mission that will send the country's first female astronaut into orbit in the process.

The crew of China's Shenzhou 9 space docking mission met reporters today (June 15) at the country's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center ahead of Saturday's planned launch at 6:37 p.m. local time (6:37 a.m. EDT or 1037 GMT). The three astronauts, or taikonauts as China's spaceflyers are known, include male crewmembers Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and the country's first woman to fly in space: the 34-year-old Liu Yang.

"I am grateful to the motherland and the people," Liu Yang said in a press conference according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. "I feel honored to fly into space on behalf of hundreds of millions of female Chinese citizens."

Liu and her crewmates will blast off atop a Long March 2F rocket and fly their Shenzhou 9 space capsule to China's Tiangong 1 laboratory module, which is a prototype space station that has been orbiting Earth since last September. It is China's fourth human spaceflight since 2003 and the first to actually rendezvous with a target in orbit.

The Shenzhou 9 astronauts are expected to perform at least two docking tests, one manual and the other automatic, and spend several days living and working inside the Tiangong 1 lab, said Wu Ping, spokeswoman for the China Manned Space Engineering Office that oversees China's human spaceflight program. [China's Shenzhou 9 Docking Mission Pictures]

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